Long bereft of a finishing kick, Ateneo gets acts together
For coach Oliver Almadro, the Ateneo Blue Eagles just scored the kind of win they sought, over the kind of team they want to beat.
Yet more than anything, the Lady Eagles, according to the outspoken mentor, delivered what’s needed to send their title-retention bid soaring in the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball.
“We told each other we need to take this win home,” said Almadro after an impressive 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 victory over erstwhile streaking University of Santo Tomas (UST) at Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday.
“My players showed they wanted to take this win home,” he said, citing many occasions where the Lady Eagles failed at the endgame. “The problem with us before is that we always fail to take it (win) when the opportunity is presented to us. We were waiting for this win. This kind of win.”
It was Ateneo’s fifth victory in 10 matches but more important, it was over the second placer UST, which had been on a roll coming into the game.
The Tigresses are now at 7-3.
La Salle grabbed a piece of the second place with UST after a 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 triumph over University of the Philippines in the third game.
The Lady Spikers trailed by six in the third as the Lady Maroons tried to stay afloat.
But Alleiah Malaluan and Thea Gagate went down to business for the Lady Spikers, who scored their second straight win in a 7-3 card. The Lady Maroons suffered their second defeat in a row for 4-6.
Ateneo, Almadro said, had to really take the game away from UST.
“We came here respecting the opponent. Respecting [UST’s Eya] Laure. So we couldn’t have lapses in defense. Every move should be studied because UST is a very strong team.” added Almadro.
The usually gritty Tigresses were out of their depth, relying on big breaks that didn’t happen. In the third set, UST tied the count at 18, calling to mind the past three five-setters it had won.
But the Blue Eagles were already too dug-in to budge. They limited Laure, the league’s top scorer, to just 14 points, eight below her average.
Ateneo also out-attacked UST, 46-38, as Faith Nisperos, Vanessa Gandler and Joan Narit all turned in double-digit performances and combined for 41 points.
“I think we got this game because we worked as a team,” said Narit. “For someone who goes in and out of the court, I could really see that trust we had. Like, even though someone misses something, there will be always someone who got their back or something.”
“I think it was just all about trust and really fighting until the end,” she added.
Suffice to say it was a morale-boosting win for Ateneo, which is having a roller-coaster season after a massive shakeup of its lineup.
“We can see that everybody is working, even the people on the bench,” said rookie middle blocker AC Miner.
UST coach Kungfu Reyes, meanwhile, admitted that the Tigresses lacked their usual aggressiveness and vowed to address the sudden dip in their performance.
“I hope this turns out to be a wake-up call for us,” Reyes said.
In the second game, Adamson scored a second straight win after drubbing Far Eastern University (FEU), 25-17, 25-17, 25-16.
Trish Genesis led the Lady Falcons with 14 points, while May Ann Nuique added 12. Rizza Cruz and Kate Santiago each chipped in 11 for Adamson who improved to 6-4.
FEU fell to its seventh successive defeat and with a 1-9 record is already out of Final Four contention.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.