Valdez credits coach Tai for keeping Ateneo together as NU sizzled early

Ateneo de Manila University had a rugged start against National University Sunday afternoon, but two-time MVP Alyssa Valdez singled out someone who made their comeback possible.

Coach Tai Bundit.

Valdez credited their Thai coach for pulling them together and helping them avoid an early onslaught by the Lady Bulldogs to emerge with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-14 victory in their UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament opening game at the packed FilOil Flying V Arena.

“Coach Tai made it possible,” she said. “Even if we’re behind, he will just tell us, ‘heart strong, happy.’ It works. We don’t really know what’s happening. We just stay calm.”

The Lady Eagles trailed big in both the first and second sets, but came back each time behind rock-solid play from Valdez and middle blockers Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon.

“It’s character-building for all of us, especially those younger players with whom I share the court.” she admitted. “I learned from them and I hope they learned from us (seniors), too.”

Valdez commended Madayag and Gizelle Tan, who transitioned from being a setter throughout her UAAP stay into a libero.

“I’m really proud of them. These kids are really hardworking,” she said. “If you see them in training, you’ll see that they give it their all.”

In her first collegiate start, Madayag finished with 13 points on 5 kills, 5 blocks and 3 aces — an impressive all-around line that complemented Valdez, who had 18 markers and 5 digs.

By Josiah Albelda