Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ateneo Women's Volleyball Team: An inspiring comeback

No, I don't have a game picture. But the huge win made the dinner much more palatable.

An inspiring comeback
by rick olivares

San Juan Arena -- Jem Ferrer pulled a Willis Reed.[1]

The Ateneo Lady Eagles’ setter supreme came down on teammate Marge Tejada’s foot while attempting to block a National University Lady Bulldog spike. Ferrer immediately felt the pain shoot up her right ankle all the way upward but she thought that she could play it through. As soon as she took a step, “parang hindi ko kaya ‘to,” she said to herself.

She took a moment to steel herself, bending down hoping the pain would go away. But it persisted and so was subbed out in favor of Gizelle Tan. The score when Ferrer went out was 11-10 in favor NU.

For two sets and a half, the National University Lady Bulldogs hammered the Ateneo Lady Eagles with a display of power volleyball. Even from the start as Ateneo raced to an early 4-0 lead in the first set, the volleys of the Lady Bulldogs were more of the ‘gigil” kind. Once they settled down it was the Lady Eagles who came unglued with shockingly poor receptions, spotty defense, and terrible communication.

That was evident when team captain Dzi Gervacio and libero Denden Lazaro watched as a ball dropped between them to give NU a 25-16 first set win.

Ferrer’s absence was immediately felt as Tan struggled to get Ateneo’s attack going. At one point, she tried to block NU’s Dindin Santiago alongside teammate Mae Tajima who had come in with her as Ateneo dug deep into to their bench to find any answer, any combination to stem the tide. The 5’3” Tan left a gaping hole in the wall that Tajima alone could fill.

Instead of falling, Ateneo fought back and forged a 24-all tie to ensure that the set be decided by a two-point margin. However, the Lady Eagles eventually lost the set 32-30 as Myla Pablo threw one down the open backline.

With an unlikely three-set sweep staring at them in the eye (and the possibility of NU picking up their first win over Ateneo in UAAP Women’s Volleyball play), the buckled down for a grind with the intention of sending the match to a fifth set.

And they would get a boost from none other than Jem Ferrer.

The score in the third set was 12-9 in favor of NU when Ferrer signaled to assistant coach Parley Tupaz that she was ready to return to the fray. Tupaz asked, “Are you sure?” Kaya mo ba?” Ferrer nodded. Although her foot was in pain, a loss, their first of the season would be more painful as the Lady Bulldogs smelled blood. All match long, they repeatedly taunted the Lady Eagles with their gyrations and stare downs following a point. After one particular emphatic spike and Pablo dancing in front of the Lady Eagles, Ferrer said to the NU player, “One point lang yan, miss.”

With her foot heavily taped, Ferrer made her way back in and the score at 13-10, NU. And the crowd of several thousand (of pre-dominantly Ateneo fans) erupted in deafening applause that was hair-raising to say the least. For the Lady Eagles, Ferrer’s re-entry into the game was inspirational as she stabilized their game.

In their very next play, Alyssa Valdez scored off NU’s Precious Salibad. Several minutes later, Ateneo forged its last deadlock of the match at 16-all when Santiago’s spike went out. A double touch violation by NU gave Ateneo its first taste of the lead since it started out the set 0-1. It was a lead they would not surrender as they took the third set, 25-21.

Now it was NU’s turn to come unglued as Ateneo was on a roll. The Lady Eagles were firing from all sides as Ella De Jesus (eight points), Fille Cainglet, Valdez, and Gervacio found their groove on offense while resolving their receiving problems from the backline.

The excessive exuberance of which was on display following a NU point in the first three sets was gone as their faces sported a look of concern and panic. After a Cainglet spike to make it 17-5, all Ateneo had to do was finish the set and go to a fifth and deciding one. They closed it out, 25-13.

A match that goes to a fifth set leaves no room for error. The steady play that characterized the Lady Eagles’ third and fourth sets disappeared in the early goings as they once more lapsed into a series of receiving errors. NU took a 5-1 lead after Cai Nepomuceno blocked Gervacio.

Digging deep, Ateneo slowly came back with raw execution. After Jem Ferrer fooled NU with a toss to an open spot (they were expecting her to set up Fille Cainglet), the score was knotted at 8-8. Now all they had to do to complete the comeback was to take the lead.

Alyssa Valdez (a match high 28 points) accomplished just that with a spike down the middle for a 10-9 lead. One play later, she hit one off Cai Nepomuceno to give Ateneo an 11-9 lead.

A "not over the net" violation was called on Dindin Santiago that made it 12-9, but the tournament commissioner overruled referee Numer Pajarillo and a re-take was controversially ordered.

Last December 7, the UAAP Board sent out a memo to all schools that the “Challenge the Call” provision where officials could verify calls via the use of video, was revoked citing the cost of using the technology. “However,” summed the memo, “the Tournament Commissioner maintains his authority to recall, and confirm or revoke the decision of the game officials.”

The problem was for the match, the tournament commissioner Mr. Otie Camangian made use of replay to revoke the call. This caused a five-minute stoppage in play as Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb and University Athletic Director Richard Palou vehemently protested the decision.

Despite all the protestations, NU had the ball back with the point awarded to Ateneo rescinded. But Fille Cainglet scored to restore the three-point lead, 12-9.

After Valdez made it 14-13, Ella De Jesus blocked Pablo for match point for a huge win that would auger well for the team’s confidence in what is a long campaign.

Down two-sets to none, on the verge of a sweep, the Lady Eagles came back to win against a strong NU team that had been making all sorts of noises about not just making the Final Four but winning it all.

On the other hand, for Ateneo to win it all, they will have to learn how to bring it from the opening to the final serve. And thus far, they have won by going through the gamut of styles. One that the coaching staff hopes will serve them well in the long run.

In their first match of the season, they spotted FEU a two-set lead before losing the next two. It took the strong play of rookie Marge Tejada for them to pull out a rabbit for the first win. They swept UE and UST in their next two outings before running into a re-tooled NU.

In this five-setter, it was the first time they lost the first set much less go down two-sets to none. It was the first time they also rallied for the win. And the end, they remained unbeaten at 4-0 while NU slid to 2-2.

Following the game, the team had dinner at Tung Lo Wan at nearby Wilson Street in Greenhills. Ferrer’s ankle has swelled up after she rolled it. As parents and friends looked at her injury, the graduating setter said, “It’s painful. But not as much as it would have been if we had lost.”

[1] Reed's most famous performance took place on May 8, 1970, during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden. Due to a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of Game 6, he was considered unlikely to play in Game 7. Yet Reed surprised the fans by walking onto the court during warmups, prompting widespread applause. Starting the game, he scored the Knicks' first two field goals on his first two shot attempts, his only points of the game. Walt "Clyde" Frazier went on to score 36 points with 18 assists as the Knicks won 113–99, giving New York City its first NBA title. The moment Reed walked onto the court was voted the greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden.


My thoughts: I really thought that this match was over in three sets. NU was whooping it up already thinking they had this in the bag. Jem Ferrer's entry was truly inspirational. The whole San Juan Arena (including NU fans) cheered when she returned. Alyssa Valdez was fantastic but Jem was awesome. A character win for sure.

After the match, as I am wont to do, I watched from afar as fans outside waited for an opportunity for a picture or an autograph. It was an amazing sight as always to see them mobbed by fans. I recall this happening as far back as 2006 when fans from Laguna would charter a bus to attend the Lady Eagles practice at Blue Eagle Gym. Practice! And they would even cook food for the girls. Imagine that! Who does that? Through the years covering sports, the teams that get this kind of attention are the Azkals, Smart Gilas, the Ateneo Men's Basketball Team, and the Lady Eagles. No bias there. But that's just the way it is. 

I recall in 2006, Ricky Palou inviting me to watch an Ateneo women's volleyball game at the BEG. I replied, "Nanalo ba? Puro lang naman maganda yung girls natin pero di nananalo." He said (and I remember it so clearly, "Pare, this is different. They are winning na kahit papano." I saw them that game and they lost to UST in straight sets. Not the win Ricky predicted. But I was hooked.

Gotta love them. 


Sometime during the early third set, the arena bouncer next to me fielded a call on his cellphone. Being next to him, I heard the conversation he was having:

Bouncer (to the person on the other end of the phone): Mukhang mapapaaga pagkita natin. Lamang NU ng dalawang set. Matatalo Ateneo.

Much later, he called that person and said, "Humabol ang Ateneo. Five sets na! Male-late ako!"

I stifled a laugh.


Other Ateneo Lady Eagles stuff from this Season 75:




  1. Hi! I think that controversial call in the fifth set was not only ordered for a replay but the point was actually awarded to NU. The score after that issue was resolved became 11-10 before Ateneo scored to make it 12-10. It was a poor call, in my opinion. Especially since NU are the UAAP hosts.

  2. Even my daughter (who played varsity volleyball in college) conceded that the call of the referee (right or wrong)will always stand. But then again when you are up against the host, well, remember the NU-FEU basketball game? Thought so.

  3. i love ur blog the best

  4. I agree with ur blog ateneo lady eagles are not just beautiful they have charms skills and humbleness lot of fans me my self smitten by their charms i even came to see them in person even crossing the sea just to confirm and yes they are more than i expected they are mobbed because they are approachable and nice.....hope they win

  5. Wrong call or right call, it will reflect the host - NU.

  6. Ate Jemm! Pagaling ka ha! :) Minsan talaga sa buhay kailangan nating ng "angas" hindi para makapagyabang o mantapak ng tao, kundi para malaman nila na hindi ka nila basta basta matutumba. :D So, para sa AKIN, TALAGANG bonggacious ung ginawa mong angas sa 'spiker?' na yun haha. :D Can't wait to have a chance to play volleyball with you! :) basta promise ko, pagbubutihan ko ang pagvo-volleyball para makalaro ka, ATE JEM. Balang araw... :) I love you Ate JAMENEA FERRER. Thanks for being my ULTIMATE INSPIRATION! :D YOU DESERVE TO BE CALLED A TRULY INSPIRATIONAL AND INCREDIBLE VOLLEYBALL PLAYER. :D -17

  7. Yup. It wasn't a replay. The point was taken from Ateneo and awarded to NU. From 12-9, it became 11-10 when pkay resumed.

  8. Sir Ricky other teams like UST, DLSU & FEU WVTs (esp nung time ni Daquis) pinapasalubungan rin ng fans from the provinces (stuffed toys, food, etc). Just wanted to point that out since you said "No bias there." Maraming niche followers ang volleyball, so that attention is not solely enjoyed by the Lady Eagles. Just saying :-)

    1. Agree. Lahat naman may fans but not like what they get.

  9. Congrats lady eagles!!