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.

Monday, May 6, 2013

NU Lady Bulldogs thrash Ateneo Lady Eagles in three

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NU Lady Bulldogs thrash Ateneo Lady Eagles in three
by rick olivares

May 5, 2013
San Juan Arena
There was no overt trash talking. No overly exaggerated gyrations. Only terrific and well-executed volleyball as the National University Lady Bulldogs dealt their Ateneo counterparts with their first defeat (25-15, 25-12, 26-24) via three-set sweep in four matches in the first conference of the Shakey’s V-League.

The Lady Bulldogs learned their folly in the last UAAP tournament when they had the Lady Eagles on the ropes with a two-sets-to-none lead before falling in five when they riled the Ateneo volleybelles with their excessive point celebrations. In their second round meeting, Ateneo routed them in three sets.

And the Lady Eagles nearly turned the trick once more but their third set rally came up short as Fille Cainglet mis-received a serve to end the match.

For the first set, Ateneo looked timid as if things would fall their way especially after a Marge Tejada ace to make it 5-2. But NU’s guest player, veteran playmaker Rubie De Leon (who once starred for UST), got going as she set up Dindin Santiago for a monstrous kill that jarred her team.

De Leon was fantastic as she orchestrated NU’s attack to perfection. And she repeatedly found holes in Ateneo’s defense with her tosses, drop shots, and spikes. Instead of having to solely worry about the open hitters, there was another threat in the middle because of De Leon’s presence (and she scored nine big points).

NU’s defense was solid with the digging of Jen Reyes.

Ateneo had problems with its net defense and that forced coach Roger Gorayeb to bench Aeriel Patnongon early in the first set in favor of fan favorite Mae Tajima (the crowd at the sold out San Juan Arena even cheered for her “Ta-ji-ma! Ta-ji-ma!” that had the venue rocking. The venue nearly burst wide open when Tajima scored on her very first entry with a kill.

But receiving errors and mis-hits plagued Ateneo in the first set as they crumbled 25-15. Ateneo guest player, Rachel Daquis, only had one point in the first set as she was repeatedly blocked at the net. Alyssa Valdez couldn’t get the ball her way and on the few occasions she did, she tried to hit the ball to the side but was called for a couple of side outs.

Incredibly, the Lady Eagles looked even worse in the second set as they looked flustered by NU’s finely tuned offense and their poor defense.

NU never allowed them to get into a rhythm and at times it seemed that the only points they gave Ateneo were off service errors. Aiko Urdas stepped up in the second set for NU with some solid hitting and services.

And it was like that with NU as they had different players stepping up – the Santiago sisters, Myla Pablo, Carmina Aganon, De Leon, and Urdas – whereas Ateneo struggled to get points from Valdez, Daquis, and Cainglet.

It was in the third set where Ateneo came alive and NU looked a little worried. For the first time all match long, they strung up four consecutive points with Daquis holding serve and Valdez finding her scoring touch, 10-6. But NU countered with better defense, strong services, and Myla Pablo’s attacks that had Ateneo off-balance for much of the game. Pablo led NU with 13 points while Urdas added 10.

It was a controversial call by the linesman that also damaged Ateneo’s confidence when a Valdez spike on the line was ruled out. That put the match at 18-all instead of giving the Lady Eagles a two-point lead. Ateneo had the opportunity though to still take the third set but a service error by Daquis and the mis-receive by Cainglet did them in.

What did NU do right for the win?
Rubie De Leon outplayed Jem Ferrer. How big an impact player was De Leon? She closed out the first and second set with points of her own. In the first set, she tossed the ball to an open backline for a 24-15 score. Then she closed it out with a spike from the middle!

In the second set, her drop shot gave NU a 25-12 score and a huge two-set lead.

Their defense that began with Jen Reyes and their wall at the net behind Dindin and Jaja Santiago, Aiko Urdas, Myla Pablo and De Leon.

They simply outplayed Ateneo. If this was to send a message how much they have changed since the UAAP then this is it. They want to unseat the back-to-back defending V-League champions.

What Ateneo needs to work on?
An offense that will keep their opponents off-balance. For much of the first set, NU concentrated its blocking on their right where Rachel Daquis was located.

It will help if they have a reliable middle hitter. Marge Tejada will grow into that.

The defense at the net that is so porous.

Notes: The San Juan Arena was packed to the top with hundreds more unable to get inside. The massive crowd support for Ateneo (clearly the crowd favorite) was impressive. First time I have seen a chant for a non-starter (Mae Tajima) and in the third set when they booed every serve by NU. The Lady Bulldogs got rattled a bit but they held on.

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