Hard work, heartstrong rewarded as Ateneo stays alive in V-League

Following its back-to-back losses to TIP and San Sebastian, Ateneo’s chances of making it to the 13th Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference quarterfinals were looking bleak.

Though the Katipunan crew tallied a convincing 3-set win over Perpetual, moving on to the next round still looked close to impossible as they were then headed for collision against Group A leader, NU.

But if there’s one thing Ateneo is known for, it is the team’s trademark of making Cinderella runs even during the toughest of times.

Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Centre, the Lady Eagles started and finished strong, shocking the Lady Bulldogs and handing them their first loss of the season, 25-15, 27-25, 25-17.

“We’re so happy kasi nakita talaga sa loob ng court ‘yung teamwork namin. Nagawa namin lahat ng pinaghirapan namin sa training,” said a beaming Michelle Morente at the post-game interview.

Though Morente topscored with 20 huge markers, it was, indeed, a group effort for Ateneo with Kim Gequillana chipping in 12 points while Ana Gopico and Bea de Leon registered 9 points apiece.

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On the defensive end, libero Gizelle Tan outpaced the opponents with 17 excelelnt digs and 9 excellent reception, allowing Jia Morado to to dish 44 excellent sets

Talking about what changed between the 2 losses and the 2 wins they chalked up, Morente says: “Mas nag work hard kami dun sa mga weaknesses namin sa training. Sa receive, sa palo, sa service, sa lahat ng mga mistakes namin nung last game.”

“Ngayon thankful kami at lumabas lahat ng pinaghirapan namin,” she added.

Technically on a rebuilding stage after losing key players like Alyssa Valdez and Amy Ahomiro, the Lady Eagles were expected to slowly but surely get its dominance back in the off-season heading into Season 79.

The pressure to evade an early elimination and regain the Katipunan squad’s stature as a powerhouse team, however, started to pile up after the surprising defeats.

This, according to Morente, is not the case within the team.

“Iniisip namin one game at a time. Iniisip namin walang pressure at for experience lang talaga. Kung saan kami maabot ng panalo namin, edi hanggang dun,” the opposite spiker told the press. “Habang nananalo kami, go lang. Laro lang kami at maging masaya sa loob.”

After the win, Ateneo ties opening day tormentor TIP with a 2-2 record which sets up the stage for a do-or-die rematch on Monday at the PhilSports Arena.

“Motivated kami na makakaharap namin sila. Natalo kami last time. Siguro ito na ‘yung comeback namin sa kanila at mapakita namin kung anong kaya naming gawin,” said Morente on facing the Lady Engineers bannered by guest players Chie Saet and Mylene Paat.

But more than the desire to join NU, San Sebastian, FEU, UP and UST in the quarterfinals, the matchup, says the captain, will be a good gauge on how far they have improved over the past month.

“Dun na namin nakita kung ano ang kaya naming gawin at kung ano pa ang kaya namin i-contribute sa team,” Morente said. —By Mac Dionisio

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