UAAP Season 81: Dawn of a new era for the Lady Eagles

Mark Escarlote on Feb 13, 2019 01:36 PM
UAAP Season 81: Dawn of a new era for the Lady Eagles
The Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles have a new mantra for UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament.

For five years, Ateneo de Manila University embraced the ‘happy, happy’ and heartstrong mantra preached by former mentor Tai Bundit.

This coming UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament will be the dawn of a new era for the Lady Eagles under new head coach Oliver Almadro.

Known as a great motivator who engineered three straight title conquests in the men’s division, Almadro brings to the Lady Eagles a new system and injects and a different approach to the game.

“My players trust naman kung ano ang sistema namin, yun ang maganda,” said Almadro, who replaced Bundit after Season 80. “My players naman are slowly getting the system kasi seven months pa lang ako sa Ateneo.”

“Sad part lang talaga na ang nga seniors ko, sina Bea (De Leon) and Maddie (Madyag), is [sic] on their last playing years. Kung mayroon pa sanang isang taon medyo may buwelo pero wala na,” he added. “We really have to give our best, we really have to give all-out this year. We have to mature right away.”

Almadro also wants his wards to adopt a simple mindset: ‘be better than their best’.

"The mindset of my players is to just aim at what is above, play right and be better than their best. Kung ano ang ibinigay nila sa mga previous tournaments they just have to be better than that. Yan ang mindset namin," Almadro said.

Bundit handled the Lady Eagles for five years and gave Ateneo its breakthrough crown in Season 76 and a rare tournament sweep in Season 77.

For his first order of business, Almadro will try to bring the Lady Eagles back into the Final Four and eventually a return stint to the championship after missing the Finals last year. Ateneo missed the Finals last year after six straight championship appearances and settled for a third place finish.     

“Well, realistic goal, of course, first, to be in the Final Four. Because if we reach the Final Four, we have a chance and opportunity to be in the Finals,” said Almadro, who steered the Marck Espejo-led Blue Eagles to three straight titles from Season 77 to 79. “Now, kapag nasa Final Four na, saka natin pag-isipan kung anong mangyayari doon. But of course, all teams are aiming on what is above always, which is the championship.”

Almadro will have in his hands a squad with a good mix of veterans and promising rookies.

Seasoned players and co-team captains Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag and Kim Gequillana will return for their swan songs for the blue and white as well as other veterans Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston and last year’s Best Setter Deanna Wong. Rookies Vanessa Gandler and Jaja Maraguinot, sister of former Ateneo hitter Jho Maraguinot who graduated last year, also showed a glimpse of their game during the pre-season, making the Lady Eagles one of the top title contenders.   

“I have 60 percent veterans and 40 percent rookies. Hindi siya 50-50 pero vital role kasi 'yung rookies ko kasi in my system kasi, I really rotate players eh,” said Almadro. “So 'yung mga rookies talaga, magagamit at magagamit sila. So, vital role 'yun.”

“Importante talaga 'yung mga rookies ko kahit 40% lang sila nu’ng team. And 'yung mga veterans ko naman, new position. So, basically it's a new system talaga,” he added.

As part of their build up for the season, the Lady Eagles joined the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference and finished runner-up to star-studded club Creamline led by former Queen Eagle Alyssa Valdez. Ateneo also ruled the Viking Cup and set up a training camp in Japan.
 

With a report from Danine Cruz.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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