Queen Eagle Valdez embraces new role for Ateneo
Mark Escarlote on May 09, 2016 05:18 PM
Outgoing Ateneo Queen Eagle Alyssa Valdez takes a new role after her collegiate career for Ateneo de Manila ended.
Fans wearing blue jerseys and shirts of Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles – most donning with a “No. 2” print - suddenly rushed to one part of the field inside the Ateneo de Manila University campus while waiting for the annual bonfire program to commence.
They ran towards three-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez – flocked by a couple of bouncers trying as hard as they could to clear the way for the volleybelle – raising their camera phones to snap a shot of two of arguably the most popular student-athlete to wear the blue and white as the crowd echoed with deafening shrieks.
Valdez like a queen greeted by her most loyal subjects walked slowly, waved, paused to have her picture taken a few times and the whole time wore her charming smile that endeared her to fans.
The moment felt like the Queen Eagle’s final walk after half a decade of memorable reign.
The overwhelming warmth of support coming from her fans overpowered the blaze of burning pile of wood in the bonfire that was lit moments later.
With Valdez exhausting all her five years of playing years, many believe that going out with her are her legions of followers that help fill the game venues and give the morale-boosting cheers for the Lady Eagles.
But the 22-year-old power-hitter said that the crowd -- including her diehard fans that are not students or alumni of the Katipunan-based school -- she drew during her colorful five-year collegiate stint will remain as the Lady Eagles’ seventh man.
The Philippine volleyball crowd-darling will be joining them at the rafters cheering for Ateneo. She’ll be taking a new role as the school’s biggest cheerleader.
“Oo naman they will (still be supporting Ateneo),” said Valdez last Saturday. "They just don’t naman support me all alone but also support the sport which is volleyball.”
“Next time nga kasama na nila ako cheering for Ateneo,” added Valdez, who helped the Lady Eagles win back-to-back titles in Seasons 76 and 77.
Valdez, who was honored with the Xavier Athletic Achievement Award she shared with cager Kiefer Ravena, said that Ateneo earned loyal fans because of their level of competitiveness, determination to win and the heart to reach their goal.
“Both naman ng women’s and men’s volleyball competitive naman din talaga and ‘yung level din nila (mataas). Ang masasabi ko rin naman na nagdala ng (supporters) ay dahil sa ganoon ang level ng competitiveness ng both divisions so for sure babalik at babalik din ang mga fans and supporters of not only me but the sport itself,’” said Valdez, who tried but fell short of delivering a three-peat to Ateneo in her swan song against archrival De La Salle Lady Spikers in a fifth straight Finals series showdown that went the full mile.
“It’s different because it’s my last year,” said Valdez on her final bonfire as a student-athlete.
For the last time she joined other graduating players Amy Ahomiro and Mae Tajima and the rest of the Lady Eagles on stage during the bonfire program.
Valdez savored every moment of it but everything felt different according to her.
“It’s my last year to go here as a student-athlete of Ateneo also and next time I’m just gonna be the one cheering for and appreciating all the student-athletes. It’s really different,” she said.
“Kasi it's bonfire e, siguro it’s a mark na tapos na talaga ang UAAP season and that’s the mark na tapos na rin ang responsibility ng pagiging student-athlete namin sa school,” Valdez continued. “It’s really different now na last ko na rin makikita ang Ateneo community and all the fans na sumusuporta sa lahat ng sports.”
“For the past two years siyempre umakyat kami (sa stage) because we got the gold, (that) we won (the title). But this time we’re here to support na lang doon sa mga nag-champion. It takes time. Kanya-kanyang oras lang ‘yan,” she added.
After her collegiate career, Valdez has a handful of options to take.
She will be playing in the V-League but is yet to decide on what team to join. She’s open to playing internationally and is now busy with her volleyball skills clinic.
Next week she’ll be flying out of the country to attend a series of international tours for the Filipino community abroad.
“I’m gonna leave May 19 to 21 or 22 ata to go to Doha, Qatar and then flight ko 23 to Europe. We’re gonna go to London and then Paris then Italy. Five days sa London, next Paris and then ‘yung the rest ng (tour) hanggang June 6 e,” she shared.
“May nag-invite talaga sa amin na Filipino community. We’re gonna have an exhibition (volleyball) game for the Filipino community,” Valdez added. “Ang kasama ko sa Doha is Amy (Ahomiro). I think and Den (Lazaro). For London and Europe it’s Grethcel (Soltones), ako and Kiefer (Ravena) then kasama si Danni and Tita Mozzy.”
After that she will return to the country to play in the V-League, complete her commercial and other commitments outside volleyball before taking an encore with the Lady Eagles in the ASEAN University Games on July 9 to 19 in Singapore where she and the rest of the crew gun to equal if not surpass their bronze medal finish two years ago in Palembang, Indonesia.
“For the last time na makapagsuot ako ng Ateneo jersey and represent also the Philippines,” she said.
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