Lost in the thrilling UAAP season 80 women's volleyball Finals series between eventual champions De La Salle University and worthy challenger Far Eastern U was one of the most underappreciated feats of the tournament.
The Lady Eagles lost to the Lady Tamaraws in disappointing fashion in the Final Four, and FEU didn't have to use its twice-to-beat advantage to do so.
But even with the exit, discounting Ateneo's path to the Final Four would deny all the heart-stopping comeback wins, and hardwork they've shown, considering that they weren’t even expected to compete all that much, given the problems they faced during the offseason.
After an alarming 0-2 start to the season, things somehow clicked for the Katipunan-based ladies. Having adjusted to the loss of veteran setter Jia Morado, among other key players, communication started getting better, and they became the league's best defensive team at the net.
That surprising turnaround changed Ateneo from an afterthought, into a legitimate title contender.
And the Lady Eagles, along with its legion of fans, can specifically thank two players for their reawaking, namely Maddie Madayag and Ponggay Gaston.
After being thrusted into a leadership role, Madayag was not afraid to call out the team whenever its members fall short of expectation.
More than words, though, Madayag also motivated the team through her improved net defense, helping Ateneo make up for its other shortcomings, eventually led an upstart Ateneo squad many experts had already written off before the start of the season to fight until the Final Four.
On the other side, Ponggay offered a somewhat intangible trait, but it helped Ateneo immensely.
Mid-slump, Ateneo was looking for a ray of light to follow so it can finally rise.
That proverbial light came in the form of Ponggay Gaston, a hitter that has captured the hearts of many fans for her antics on the court.
Ponggay's happy-happy ways may have irked a few people, accusing her of not taking the game seriously, but it proved to be her way of towing the Lady Eagles past their troubles.
She brought the carefree disposition back to the Lady Eagles' camp, while also giving a huge boost to their floor defense when she accepted the role of a libero at the middle of the season.
The move was the ultimate test of Ponggay's versatility, and she delivered, proving to be the dependable player who's ready to adjust for the good of the team.
Ponggay brought the happy-happy, while Maddie had the heartstrong as they reclaimed the Lady Eagles' identity and winning culture before it disappeared for good.
Off the court, however, Maddie and Ponggay can also pull off stunning feats of style with the help of H&M Philippines. Their busy sched may have prevented them from exploring different looks. But now, their jerseys are going to take a rest because they’re up for their much-deserved full makeover.
See Maddie Madayag sporting tonal dressing trends and Ponggay Gaston pulling off an all-denim look in their style transformation videos below. They may have lost in the #UAAPSeason80Volleyball championship, but these two are winners in the beauty and fashion arena—without doubt.