The rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle has mostly been about basketball. And with thousands of fans flocking to the venues every time the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers lock horns, their games have been highlights in the UAAP seniors hoops tournaments of recent years.
But with the growth of volleyball in the country, the rivalry has also recently included UAAP volleyball.
Just a few years ago, La Salle had its so-called Big MAC — Michele Gumabao, Aby Marano and Cha Cruz — while Ateneo had its Fab Five of Jem Ferrer, Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet and A Nacachi.
As these players repeatedly battled on the taraflex, the animosity between Blue and Green have greatly helped sparked the increase in popularity of volleyball.
The trio won 3 straight championships with the Taft squad, setting the bar that Ateneo — their bitter rival — is currently trying to breach.
Marano and Gumabao see the similarities between their past La Salle group and the current Lady Eagles.
“Alam mo yung view ko sa Ateneo parang tayo nung time natin. Complete yung ikot ng tao,” said Maraño, a 2-time UAAP MVP who lost to Alyssa Valdez and crew in Season 76.
“Sobrang complete ng rotation ng Ateneo, honestly. Lahat ng areas covered nila,” Gumabao added.
As for the Lady Spikers, Maraño admired how Majoy Baron has stepped up for their team while adding she misses the ‘block party’ they regularly did on opponents during their peak.
“Nag step up din si Baron e, sa blockings and sa palo. Nakaka contribute siya sa team,” she said. “Sa blockings palang kung makakapuntos na sila, kung mababalik lang yung block party na tinatawag, malaki din yung chance.”
Cruz, a famed wing spiker who won Finals MVP in Season 74, hopes La Salle’s outside hitters will deliver the goods against Ateneo.
“Magstep up yung open. Pagpilay yung isa nahahawa yung iba e,” she shared as the Lady Spikers have not drawn the usual numbers from Ara Galang and Tin Tiamzon.
Nonetheless, Cruz, Gumabao and Marano believe the Lady Spikers have what it takes to topple the back-to-back defending champions.
“Makinig lang kayo coach and tulong-tulong lang. Isipin niyo muna yung sarili niyong game bago yung game ng iba. Step-up lang. Tiwala lang sa sarili and sa team,” Gumabao told rookies.
“Tibayan nila yung sarili nila. Hindi na para dumepende sa seniors e. If they can really step up for the team, why not? Kahit bata pa sila kung hangga’t kaya nila magperform para sa team bigay todo na sila. Wag sila matakot, bola lang yun, laro lang yun,” Maraño added.
“Try your best to be more consistent and wag masyadong magpadala sa pressure. Kasi pag nage-enjoy naman talaga, everything will follow e. Syempre sana walang magka-injury. First game palang naman yan e, so magkaka-alaman,” said Cruz.
“Magtiwala sila sa kaya nilang gawin, indibidwal. At kayang gawin ng team nila. Kasi once na nagpa intimidate sila sa kalaban, mahihirapan talaga sila,” closed Marano. “Dapat pagpasok palang ng court, tapang. Isipin nila na kayang-kaya nila yung laro, sila yung mag-control. Wag sila magpa intimidate.” — By Joyce Palad