ADMU LADY EAGLES: Big fight in post-Alyssa Valdez era

Mark Escarlote on Feb 02, 2017 03:41 PM
ADMU LADY EAGLES: Big fight in post-Alyssa Valdez era
How will Ateneo de Manila fare in the post-Alyssa Vadez era?

Ateneo de Manila University is one team facing a daunting challenge this UAAP Season 79.

Yes, the Lady Eagles will still have some of their veterans back while key returnees are sure to give the squad the needed firepower and support.

But the biggest question for the Tai Bundit-mentored crew remains – how will Ateneo fare without its prolific scorer, leader and the heart and soul of the team after the departure of this generation’s most popular and most talented hitter in Alyssa Valdez?

Incoming third year player Bea De Leon admitted that they are in a rebuilding stage with Valdez leaving a gaping hole both on offense and in leadership inside the court but it is hurdle that they just have to overcome to regain the title they lost last year against archrival De La Salle.   

“Oo naman (rebuilding kami), fair to say that,” said De Leon, who will also miss her partner in the middle Amy Ahomiro and Mae Tajima. "It's not something bad. Rebuilding just means you're rebuilding in the sense to make it stronger, so it's definitely not a bad thing.”

De Leon added that it will be an uphill climb for the Katipunan-based squad without Valdez but the team has to move on and face adversity with the same heartstrong mantra.  

“S'yempre, it's hard to lose your leader of how many years. Pero other than that, it's okay naman,” said the 20-year-old volleybelle. “Volleyball-wise, it's a lot harder to figure out who's gonna spike and team-wise s'yempre a lot of people are just stepping up and finding their roles. More or less, pantay-pantay kami so it's okay naman.”

Aside from De Leon, other key returnees Jho Maraguinot, setter Jia Morado and Kim Gequillana are all expected to step up to lead the squad and assume the Queen Eagle title left by Valdez, who is now spreading her wings in Thailand.

Ateneo also welcomes the return of Ana Gopico and Maddie Madayag from injury and the debut of recruits Jules Samonte and Kat Tolentino.

Gopico is in her second year of action since going down with a knee injury in the middle of Season 76 while Tolentino will see action for the Lady Eagles for the first time after sustaining a knee injury during ta preseason tournament that sidelined her last season.

Madayag, who has fully recovered from a knee injury she sustained in the middle of Season 78, sees a silver lining this year with Valdez out of their lineup. At least now they won't rely on just one person on offense, though Valdez's Season 78-best 17.3 points per game average is something that Ateneo will surely miss.   

“Siguro the sets are more equally distributed,” explained the incoming third year player. “For example, pag-panget ‘yung receive, diretso kay Ate Ly. At least now, the quickers, they get to adjust also pag-panget ‘yung receive.”

With this in mind the Ateneo could be an even more dangerous and unpredictable offensive team, giving the opposition a hard time to adjust on their defensive sets.

Head coach Bundit adjusted his rotation and even tweaked the positions of his wards, something they perfected during their training camps in Thailand and Japan.

“At first it was challenging, but then with training siguro, you can adjust naman quickly, and with our training in Thailand and Japan, we were able to jell with the positioning,” fourth year player Gequillana said.

Ateneo gets an early litmus test on Saturday against University of Sto. Tomas at the Big Dome.

Catch the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament starting February 4, Saturday live on S+A, S+A HD channel 166 and via livestream.

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