There’s a stark difference in the intensity of play between the Ateneo team that started the 13th Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference with back-to-back losses and the one that is currently holding a 3-game winning streak.
Though the cast of characters were the same, the early performance of the Lady Eagles were nothing short of shocking—yielding to TIP in 5 before getting swept by San Sebastian—while the last 3 outings became a showcase of brilliance, punishing Perpetual and NU and eventually avenging their loss against TIP.
What changed? Ateneo is learning to let go, says its setter Jia Morado.
“We let go of the expectations. We’re supposed to kasi we don’t have to pressure ourselves like what we did in our first 2 games. Feeling ko na-pressure kami dun,” she told FOX Sports. “We accepted na there are different people inside the court. We had to let things from the past go para maka-move forward kami.”
“We accepted na that was a different team. This is a new team. There would be no use comparing ourselves to the past,” the Season 77 best setter awardee added.
Save for Morado, Kim Gequillana and Gizzle Tan, the starting lineup of Ateneo has been given a facelift, giving it a whole new feel compared to its Season 78 iteration.
Gone are veterans Alyssa Valdez and Amy Ahomiro, while Jho Maraguinot might miss the entire tournament due to a leg injury.
Even reliable middle blocker Bea de Leon missed some crucial minutes that led to the team’s slow start no thanks to her back pain.
Good thing going for the Katipunan crew, though, is the flexibility of middle-blocker-turned-outside-hitter Ana Gopico combined with the replenished confidence of returning Michelle Morente.
“It was tough. Sa training kasi ang dami naming adjustments na ginagawa,” shared Morado talking about the quick familiarity she has to master as spikers move to new positions.
“Siyempre si coach Tai (Bundit) nag-iikot ng mga tao para makita kung ano ‘yung gagana. We all had to adjust and it was very tough,” she added.
The result: the happy and heartstrong team the fans have come to love is back and is looking to give the rest of the field a tough fight in the quarterfinals.
On making it past the 3-game stretch successfully, Morado shares: “We’re very happy with the results. Win or lose, alam namin na hindi naman nasasayang ‘yung hard work namin eh. If we lose, it means we just need to work on things more.”
“Sa sport naman na ‘to ‘yung makakatulong talaga sa loob is ‘yung team work eh. Feeling ko naman makikita sa mga panalo na there was team work,” she added.
While winning 3 do-or-die games can do wonders to the Lady Eagles’ confidence, their job is far from done as they are set to square off with fellow UAAP teams UP, UST and FEU.
But yet again, the game plan sticks. Ateneo aims to continue playing happy, feeling no pressure at all.
“We’re going into the quarterfinals with the same mindset that we had in the eliminations. We’re going at it one game at a time. It sounds (like a) cliche but it’s how we really take it and that’s the way na feeling namin hindi namin ipe-pressure sarili namin,” the playmaker observed.
“It has been working. Ang gaan namin sa loob ng court and there’s really a lot more teamwork,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio