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, March 3, 2013

Ateneo Women’s Volleyball: That third and fifth set

Ateneo Women’s Volleyball: That third and fifth set
by rick olivares

In the first round of the Season 75 UAAP Women’s Volleyball Tournament, I felt that if Ateneo had beaten La Salle then they would stand a great change of toppling the two-time defending champions.

When they went ahead two sets to none in that first round encounter, I said they have to take this in three if they want not only the win but also the psychological advantage. They fell apart in the third set and went on to lose in five.

In the second round encounter, I didn’t think we could pull it off. The Lady Spikers were humming then; their confidence higher than one could possibly imagine. That they swept it wasn’t much of a surprise.

The Lady Eagles following the first round loss took a tumble as they were beaten in two more contests. It underscored their vulnerability if not their collective fragile psyche.

Prior to the opening serve, I had a long discussion with good friend Boom Gonzales about the game (we frequently hold discussions/chat on sports and other matters when we see each other). The conventional wisdom and logical thinking would be a DLSU win in two games. The best-of-three series is far easier to mentally navigate than a thrice-to-beat advantage for the top squad. Said Boom: “But we cannot just award anything because you will never know what might happen. And that is why the game is played.” Well said.

La Salle knows it can and will win. The question therefore is, does Ateneo know that they can too?

The first set, I told Boom, will say if Ateneo will fight or not.

In the light of the Game One loss, maybe I should rephrase that to, “Can the Lady Eagles take a third set from La Salle?”

The new wrinkle with Alyssa Valdez playing the middle for a quicker play is not exactly new. Ateneo head coach Roger Gorayeb was forced to reveal that trump card (in the absence of a consistent attacking middle threat) in the first round NU match that also went to five sets. I knew of the stratagem as early as before the season when they were practicing it. Saving it for the finals should they make it back. After the win over NU, they didn’t run it again. Maybe a play here and there but not much.

In the finals, they ran it and an ambush was in the making. The points were coming from just about every Lady Eagle. Their defense at the net was fantastic. Their digging and receiving was great. And so was their serving. That nine-point stretch where Dzi Gervacio was serving was spectacular.

Was I giddy after two sets? Not at all.

They have to close it out. They need to prove to all that they can close it out.

Leading by five in the third set, the Lady Archers showed their championship mettle. Kim Fajardo also showed her prowess at the serve as La Salle came back to even take the lead.

The poor reception and spotty setting hurt Ateneo especially in the fourth set when they forged a 21-all tie only to commit two consecutive errors that gave the Lady Spikers a massive advantage.

By the fifth set, it was all over.

Was it championship experience? I never say that championship experience is everything. As I pointed out to a colleague, if we go by that thinking, then how could the Ateneo Men’s Football Team defeat the two-time defending champion UP Fighting Maroons in football (the Blue Booters went 4-0 against their Katipunan neighbors this season).

What the Lady Spikers have is heart. Abi Maraño tirelessly worked to get her teammates back in the game. They’ve got fantastic players and even a bench that can be another team’s starting unit.

The Lady Eagles have heart too. In the Fab Five’s freshman year, they lost five five-setters (after taking 2-nil leads). Form that time, they’ve come to win a few of their own. But how damaging was this one?

I thought that their old malady of committing errors in bunches killed them as La Salle made their adjustments. They shot themselves on the foot by poor receiving and poor playmaking. When they needed to spike the ball they hit shots that lacked for power. The late-game decision making became their undoing.

When they began to unravel it spiraled downwards quickly. When La Salle was given that opening, they tore open that hole and turned into a crevice. When they took the fourth set, they knew this game and even perhaps the series was theirs.

Confidence is a dangerous thing to give. The other day while watching Alaska’s last practice before taking on Talk ‘n Text, I sat next to Gaby Espinas and talked about Dondon Hontiveros’ shooting woes. Espinas’ answer was astounding. He felt that Hontiveros’ may have had problems with his shooting percentage but he was never shy about taking shots because he knew they were going to eventually drop. Hontiveros’ belief in himself and Espinas (as well as his teammates) confidence in him was unshakable.

The following game, they trampled on TNT with Dondon hit 50% of his shots for 10 points. You might say that 10 points isn’t much but remember that this Alaska team divides its minutes among its deep bench.

The same can be said for La Salle. Watching Maraño in the face of a stellar game played by Ateneo, who wouldn’t want to give their all?

As for Ateneo, whether a pair of calls that didn’t go their way bothered the Lady Eagles is besides the point. You cannot let that distract you as you simply have to dig in deep and get back those points.

Now Ateneo is staring at a 1-0 hole and three loses this season (not to mention a 13-1 record against La Salle since the batch of Gretchen Ho, Jem Ferrer, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, and A Nacachi went to Loyola). They revealed their gambit and they lost. Does head coach Roger Gorayeb still have another trump card in his sleeve?

The Lady Eagles need to raise their level of play once more and push some more. On two occasions, they know now rather painfully that what they gave just wasn’t good enough.

The question for them heading into the no-tomorrow Game Two is, have they learned enough to get over the hump?


  1. be compose and always stay focus dont mind others just mind whats in it
    we love ALE ! OBF!

  2. just be compose all the time and stay focus all through out! everything is just a one eye-missed-out!
    but we all knew you gave your best and we feel that
    were always here to support ALE esp. FROM BATAAN

  3. Kaya yan. Go Ateneo!!!

  4. I agree very poor officiating from the refs! Being a La Salle supporter, I was convinced the match was rigged in favor of the blue side, there were 2(?) check balls that should have been considered. But then bumawi yung ref via that 'error' on the net by Cainglet and awarded the point to La Salle. I noticed these refs are very inconsistent when it comes to calling net violations, sometimes they let it slip sometimes they're unreasonably strict. Worse, they choose to make these dubious calls during crucial games! Makes me doubt if their licenses are legit issued by FIVB.

  5. With all due respect, its Abi Maraño, not Marañon

    1. Thanks, it's a typo. Nevertheless, thanks.