UAAP VOLLEYBALL: Bea De Leon: The Legacy of the Fiery Lady Eagle

UAAP VOLLEYBALL: BDL: The Legacy of the Fiery Lady Eagle
I think from my very first year I was already being groomed to be the vocal one -- Bea De Leon

Bea De Leon bit her lips and with a clenched fist celebrated a point of Ateneo de Manila University in the crucial closing stretch of the fifth set againstthe University of Sto. Tomas.

The Tigresses mounted a rally behind their explosive hitter Sisi Rondina and gave the Lady Eagles quite a scare after being down by a huge deficit.

Calm and composed, De Leon gathered her teammates in a huddle, gave a little pep talk and ensured her crew that the victory was theirs to take.

It was not just words to boost her teammates’ morale. It was the fuel needed by Ateneo to survive another tough battle.

After the final whistle was blown, De Leon helped her school accomplish a feat many thought the Lady Eagles won’t reach after being crippled by key losses after last season.

The Katipunan-based squad snatched a seat in the Final Four, its ninth straight post-season stint.

Ateneo fulfilled their pre-season goal with De Leon serving as their leader.

A role that the fourth year middle embraced wholeheartedly.     

 

Leading the Way

Many were surprised when De Leon was replaced as Lady Eagles team captain by Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino heading into the 80th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.

The fiery Ateneo veteran was the skipper of the rebuilding squad during the pre-season that saw the Lady Eagles face internal issues gone public and a dismal outing during the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference.

Her stint may have been short, but it was during that most challenging time where she showed her character as a leader.

The Lady Eagles were then just reeling after a heartbreaking sweep in the Season 79 Finals against archrival De La Salle University. And dealing with the decision of setter Jia Morado to forego her last playing year coupled by the departure of Michelle Morente and the brewing ‘internal problems’ weren’t easy tasks to handle.

But she did her job.

Leadership is a character that De Leon possesses.

“I think from my very first year I was already being groomed to be the vocal one,” said De Leon. “Medyo sanay na ako in that aspect na magsalita and when not.”

She credited her seniors Alyssa Valdez and Morado for all the lessons she had learned over the years and the impact they made that helped her fulfill her role.

“Over the years nga kasi since there were people who came before me, it’s a lot easier to transition,” De Leon said. “I had the mentors and the guides throughout the whole years and the people I look up to and eventually it’s just a slow process. It’s not exactly hard din.”

 

Balancing Act

Leading a team composed of her peers and young inexperienced rookies, De Leon admitted is not an easy task.

It needed a good balance of authority, guidance, knowledge and understanding teammates.  

“The way I deal with my team is regardless if you’re on the same age, you have to know your place. You have to know how to balance it. There are days that you have to act like a senior and you know there are times that you have to reprimand them on little things,” said De Leon, who in her rookie year had the privilege to be a part of the Lady Eagles’ historic Season 77 sweep in Ateneo’s repeat title.

“But there are also days that you just have to stay together and you know go to their level,” she added. “Same mindset kayo, magpakabata ka, magpaka-happy-happy ka. Do whatever.”

“You just have to know that difference and the balance of like what I said, of staying with them and pushing your authority also,” continued De Leon, a member of the 2015 national team. “I think that’s how I earned it (respect). I have to know also when to get mad, when to not, the usual. You know the usual things, leadership 101. Things you learn in school.”

De Leon pointed out that Valdez and Morado did the same during their time, and she that was just merely continuing the leadership culture inside the squad – an influence brought by former Queen Eagles Charo Soriano, Fille Caiglet and Dzi Gervacio.

“Ate Ly, Jia also I think wanted the same thing, to find the right balance. Being with us but also having the right amount of distance so they still have that respect for you, they still have to recognize you as the ‘senior’. Yung mga ganoon lang,” she said. “Its always the balance of everything.”

 

Working Together     

Ateneo started the season with two straight losses – its worst start in 11 years – and ended the opening round with a 4-3 card capped by a four-set loss to the Lady Spikers.

The Lady Eagles turned their season around when they won five straight in the second round and clinched a semifinals berth to face Far Eastern University. Ateneo saw its winning streak snapped as it dropped a straight sets loss against Katipunan neighbor University of the Philippines last week.

At stake on Sunday in Ateneo’s end of the elims rematch against DLSU is the all-important twice-to-beat advantage.

De Leon and the rest of the Lady Eagles will be ready.

“Whatever happens we’ll take it. To start off the season naman really our goal is the Final Four and we’ve reached that. Sakto you can’t be too greedy di ba?” said De Leon. “You have to accept everything. You take it by a stride, you take it one by one."

“Of course the twice-to-beat is such a huge advantage but what was given to us we’ll always be grateful and we pray that we’ll be able to do what is best on what is given to us.”

It will be a tall task at hand for Ateneo especially against the Lady Spikers, who are on a seven-game roll.

But De Leon is optimistic that they can rise above the odds and adversities just like the way the Lady Eagles did in Season 76 when they accomplished a breakthrough title with Valdez leading the way.

“I think what’s good is that what we emphasize is chemistry and team work because we lost a lot of aces like Alyssa Valdez, si Jia Morado through the past years. That’s a big loss but what we can do now is work harder together.”

De Leon stressed that the heartstrong mantra lives on.

But this time it's her time to bear that torch and lead the Lady Eagles back into greatness.  

Her leadership is her legacy.

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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