MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles won their sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but not before encountering a stiff challenge from the youthful National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
Behind the dominance of their middle blockers, Ateneo claimed a 23-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 victory, giving them a 6-1 win-loss record at the end of the first round.
It took the Lady Eagles nearly two hours to complete the win, however, as NU gave them all they could handle before fading down the stretch. Indeed, it was NU that drew first blood, out-executing Ateneo down the stretch of the opening frame.
“NU is coming off a good win,” said Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro, referring to the Lady Bulldogs’ upset of University of the Philippines last week. “‘Yung momentum is still there, the energy, the intensity is still there.”
It was Ateneo that played below par in the first frame, as the Lady Eagles committed 13 unforced errors to help NU’s cause.
But Almadro encouraged them to “play the right way,” and was glad that his players responded to his challenge. “‘Yung resilience ng mga players ko, lumabas sa second set,” the coach expressed.
Afterward, the Lady Eagles could only commend the Lady Bulldogs for the tough fight that they put up. It was NU’s rookie pair of Princess Robles and Ivy Lacsina that again took charge for their team, coming up with 18 and 11 points, respectively.
“Rookies sila eh, so they’re very eager,” said Ateneo skipper Bea de Leon, who contributed 13 points to their win. “I remember my very first year, all I wanted to do is get the best shots, enjoy every moment.”
“So ‘yun ang kalaban mo doon eh – the enthusiasm that they have for the games. And I really commend them,” she added. “They really showed us that despite being rookies, kaya nila makapagsabayan sa veterans and all of the teams in the UAAP actually.”
Kat Tolentino, who finished with 10 points, noted that the Lady Bulldogs were playing with a “nothing to lose” mindset – and it worked wonders for them.
“I think it was kind of a wakeup call in the first set seeing how they played,” she admitted. “I think they did a really good job.”
“I think that was for me one of the hardest games in the first round, just because of the way they fought,” she added. “I think it’s just their mentality that they have nothing to lose because if they win, it’s a good boost for them as rookies, it’s not that much pressure like us.”
De Leon agreed, saying: “That was one of the toughest games we played, actually, for me.”
“It’s tougher to play a team that’s very loose,” she added. “And I commend them a lot. Good fight talaga.”
This kind of victory can only give the league-leading Lady Eagles the momentum they need heading into the second round, where they expect every game to be even more intense.
“Hopefully, everybody should peak at the right time,” said Almadro. “(We) should have the 100% mindset and energy coming at the right time in the second round.”
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