UAAP Season 81 Finals: Lady Eagles reclaim throne
Mark Escarlote on May 18, 2019 05:10 PM
The Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles landed back to the throne after a four-year wait.
Queens once again.
Ateneo de Manila University completed a thrilling Finals series comeback after taking down University of Sto. Tomas in an anticlimactic, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22, Game 3 victory on Saturday to reclaim the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball crown at the MOA Arena that was packed by a 21,347-strong crowd.
The Lady Eagles took advantage of the Tigresses’ error-plagued game to steal the best-of-three series after going down in straight sets in Game 1 and hoist their third title overall and first in four years.
Graduating middle blockers Finals Most Valuable Player Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag, who were the remaining remnants of the last squad that won the title in Season 77 - their last of back-to-back, flexed their muscles at the net to stymy the attacking firepower of the Tigresses while veteran hitter Kat Tolentino punished the defense of UST with her heady attacks.
Tolentino fired 15 points with 11 comiing off kills to lead Ateneo, which tied the series last Wednesday, 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15. Madayag scored 10 off six spikes and four kill blocks while De Leon and Jules Samonte finished with six markers each for the Lady Eagles.
“First, it’s not how you start, it’s how you end it,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, who replaced Tai Bundit after last season. “We lost the first match of the season. Many people counted us out. Bobo daw outside hitter namin, wala kaming receive, wala kaming defense, but we made it.”
“It’s because of our faith and courage. I really tell you guys, it’s really the faith and the courage,” he added. “Of course, we will work hard. We will not be that perfect players. I will not be that perfect coach, but we worked as a team. We worked as a family. That’s what’s important.”
The Katipunan-based squad smelled blood after taking the first two sets and raced to a 16-9 lead in the third frame. The Tigresses refused to just surrender as UST behind Graduating Season Most Valuable Player Sisi Rondina and Rookie of the Year Eya Laure chopped the Lady Eagles lead to 20-19.
De Leon stopped the bleeding with a kill block on Laure. The Tigresses tied it a 21 off a Rondina hit. Tolentino gave the lead back to Ateneo with a hit before Rondina answered back to tie it at 22. Madayag got a drop ball to land before scoring another point off a push on an open spot to put the Lady Eagles at championship point, 24-22.
Jules Samonte finished off UST with a kill.
Ateneo started off hot to take the fight and energy out of UST and its crowd with a 22-12 scoring blitz over the Tigresses, who in the opening frame gave away 13 points off errors.
The Espana-based squad showed a good run in the second set as UST opened a 16-12 gap capped by a Janine Balcorta service ace. But the Lady Eagles answered with a five-point blitz for a 17-16 advantage capped off by an Eya Laure error.
UST retook the lead, 20-18, after an ace by Laure but Ateneo countered with five straight points highlighted by back-to-back aces by Lady Eagles setter Deanna Wong and sealed by a De Leon kill block on Dimdim Pacres for a 23-20 advantage.
Rondina and Balcorta scored back-to-back hits before De Leon’s running hit for a 24-22 Ateneo lead. Rondina was called for a net violation on the next play,that took some time to be decided by the referees, as Ateneo moved a set away from the crown.
UST took the series opener, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, last week.
Rondina bid goodbye to her colorful five-year stint as a Tigress with 18 points with all but one coming off attacks with 11 digs and seven excellent receptions. Laure, who sustained a left akle sprain in Game 2 and was obviously bothered by it the whole game, closed her debut season with 10 points for UST, which gave away 29 points off miscues.
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