‘Heart-strong’ Ateneo clinches UAAP women’s volley crown
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo reaped the sweetest reward of its “heart strong” campaign in UAAP season 76.
The Lady Eagles, surviving a mammoth thrice-to-beat edge off a seasoned La Salle side, clinched their first-ever UAAP women’s volleyball championship in stunning fashion on Saturday.
Ateneo shut down rival La Salle in three-straight sets, 25-23, 26-24, 25-21 before over 21,000 passionate volleyball fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Eagles became only the second squad in history to overcome a thrice-to-beat disadvantage since the University of the Philippines’ table tennis squad earlier this season.
But Ateneo was the only team which achieved what eight other teams couldn’t do this season: Make La Salle bleed for their points. Not just once but three times.
“If you believe you can win, we will win,” Thai head coach “Tai” Bundit, who brought the “heart strong” battle cry, amid the post-game pressure.
Sans the pressure of snatching the title away from La Salle, Ateneo managed to focus more on their game.
“I think what worked for us this year was we played with no pressure unlike last year when everyone was expecting us to make it to the finals. When we reached the final four, our coaches were already proud of us, and that made us confident,” said Alyssa Valdez who was also this year’s finals Most Valuable Player.
And the Lady Eagles were oozing with confidence against the powerhouse Lady Spikers, managing to come back from seven points down in the second set, 16-21, to go up 2-0.
They rode the momentum in the third set and led by as much as nine points, 19-10, which stunned La Salle momentarily.
The Lady Spikers tried to resuscitate their flat-lining bid and pulled to within two, 19-21, but an error from Ara Galang and three straight markers from Valdez wrapped the win and a first-ever championship for Ateneo.
Valdez finished with 21 points, Michelle Morente added 11 and Ella De Jesus 10 for the Lady Eagles.
Meanwhile, it was a bitter ending to La Salle’s perfect elimination round campaign as the Lady Spikers missed a chance to make it a “four-peat.”
Only Galang wound up with double digits for the Lady Spikers with 11 points as graduating Aby Marano only had eight points and Mika Reyes, six.
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