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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Analyzing the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals

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Analyzing the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals
by rick olivares pic by mon rubio

The stepladder (dis)advantage
Does the stepladder format or the thrice to beat advantage in the finals help a team? Well, it’s a no and a yes.

No, because of a long lay-off that precedes the finals, the waiting team will not have any bearing games to compete in, hence the fear of rust. There is the fear of a blunted edge.

Since the stepladder format was adopted for Season 71, there have been several teams that have swept the elimination round and availed of the advantage.

Over in the Juniors Division, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets swept the elimination round of Season 73 while eventual finals opponent UST finished 10-4.

UST defeated NU and then La Salle for the right to play Ateneo. The Tiger Cubs defeated Ateneo in the first game but the Blue Eaglets took the next two to annex the championship.

Jumping over to the college ranks, in women’s volleyball during Season 74, La Salle also swept the elims and waited for some time before facing Ateneo in the Finals. The Lady Eagles took Game One but the Lady Spikers re-found their verve to take the next two games and their second straight championship.

During the Men’s Badminton tournament of Season 75, National University clinched the thrice-to-beat advantage. La Salle defeated UST in the semifinals one-game playoff to face Ateneo. The Blue Shuttlers ousted them, 3-1 to enter the finals. NU lost the first game to Ateneo before winning the next two games to clinch the crown.

In revenge story that will remind many of recent circumstances, Season 76 saw  Ateneo earn the thrice-to-beat advantage with NU playing catch up. The Bulldogs tripped Ateneo in the first game but the Blue Shuttlers came back to win the second and third games to win the championship.

Also this past season, the UP Women’s Table Tennis Team overcame La Salle’s thrice-to-beat advantage to take the crown.

And in the sports season ender this Season 76, the La Salle Lady Spikers who were gunning for a historic fourth consecutive title and armed with the three-times-to-beat advantage were destroyed in shocking fashion by Ateneo whom they had beaten in the last two finals.

Of the six examples given, four teams with the advantage won while two lost.

While analyzing Game One of the Women’s Volleyball Finals, I said that I didn’t think that rust was much of a factor as La Salle came out like a house on fire. They looked like they didn’t miss a beat and were going to blow the Lady Eagles off the floor.

Another reason why I disagree about the rust factor is that DLSU experienced this two years ago so they know what to expect and how to counter the long lay-off. They gave no indication that they were rusty so that debunks that.

So what happened?

I will agree to that for the first game but not in the succeeding games. As I previously stated in my game one analysis, they did not bury Ateneo when they had a chance in the first set with the score at 14-3. They allowed Ateneo to finish the set 25-17. If one bothered to look at the Lady Eagles when they changed courts, they were fine and confident because they had not only gotten their confidence going but their had gotten over the opening game jitters.

The Lady Spikers looked like their first game loss was a distant memory when they came out looking sharp in the first set of Game Two. Ateneo was again jittery in the early goings. They fought back and in the light of how events have unfolded, one has to wonder if Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro were not injured for the latter part of the first set and the entire second frame, would Ateneo taken the second game? Perhaps.

Ateneo lost the first two sets, won the third and came within an Alyssa Valdez error of perhaps winning the fourth set.

The Lady Spikers also looked great in the third, fourth, and parts of the fifth set of Game Three before Ateneo launched another of their season-long comebacks to win and gain the momentum heading into the last game.

No. It wasn’t overconfidence on the Lady Spikers’ part. It’s the breaks (as evidenced by how Game Three ended) and the fact that Ateneo simply played with a lot more CONFIDENCE and with an intensity level several notches higher.


Ateneo’s Coach Tai did a masterful job
It is said that La Salle’s coaching staff prepared for NU and not Ateneo.

If they saw Ateneo take Game One of their series with NU, then they should have realized that there was the possibility of playing their rivals and not the Sampaloc-based school’s upstart squad. They should have adjusted right there and then.

There were still a few days between the semifinals and the finals. There’s time to adjust.

They have faced Ateneo in the previous two finals. They should know by now that the Katipunan-based squad always has an ace up their sleeves come the finals.

Dating back to Season 74, then-head coach Roger Gorayeb played Mae Tajima in the middle. The Davao lass put up a mean wall and blocked and scored some points. That provided some scoring sock from their open positions. La Salle of course countered that and won.

In Season 75, then Lady Eagles coach utilized Alyssa Valdez in the middle to complement Fille Cainglet and Dzi Gervacio from the wings. But La Salle found a way to counter them.

I find it strange that Coach Ramil says they were suddenly surprised that Amy Ahomiro and Ella De Jesus were playing well. Okay, granted Amy had a good game against FEU in the first round then disappeared a bit. But she got her game and serve going and in doing so displaced Bea Tan in the lineup. Ditto with Ella.

Furthermore, if they followed how the Lady Eagles performed, they lost to NU on Opening Day (Coach Tai’s only loss to the Lady Bulldogs as he wasn’t around for the second round match), reeled off five wins then lost to La Salle. They fell to La Salle and NU again in the second round then came away victorious in four straight to end the eliminations. Okay, one could infer that, they cannot beat the top two teams but it also showed that they are capable of win streaks. When Anusorn Bundit returned after the second round NU loss, they came together.

But… if they had watched the Adamson and NU series, they would have seen the Lady Eagles start to hum and play much much better. With the excellent excellent playmaking of Jia Morado, there were now consistent options from the open and middle positions.

Obviously, the return of Bundit and his style of coaching (I will write separately about that) galvanized Ateneo.

I think it is unfair to say that players like Aby Maraño and Mika Reyes did not perform. Sure they did. I think some people forget how Aby served seemingly for the entire set in Game Three that put them at the precipice of a championship.

What is missing here is NOT giving credit to Ahomiro, Aeriael Patnongon and other players for not only making life difficult for La Salle. Did you see Ella De Jesus’ blocks on Reyes? If that doesn’t pump you up then you must be dead. And come on, after playing DLSU two consecutive years in the finals you don’t think Ateneo will commit the same mistakes? If you don’t learn from them you’re the eternal bridesmaid and the butt of La Salle jokes.

Was there pressure on La Salle to win it all again?
Of course. Any time you defend a title there is pressure. More so if you’re from a high profile program. But I don't think they felt it until they saw they were really challenged. Take a look at them during their first time out of the series -- they were relaxed. In their next one, when Ateneo began to make a game of it there was a little bit of concern. Then it began to mount from there.

Was there pressure on Ateneo?
Not at first but eventually there was. Like I previously wrote, no one goes to the finals as if they are sight seeing and on a picnic. Any time you don the blue and white or the green and white you are expected to win. It’s the two rivals. NO ONE WANTS TO LOSE TO THE OTHER. Furthermore, all the other schools want to kick your ass simply because you’re from Ateneo or La Salle. They all automatically raise the level of their games.

Moral victories by taking a set or two? A game?

I hate to burst your bubble but no one will remember those moral victories years from now when in all the record books, websites, and blogs they will mention the winner and the loser.

“There’s always next year” sounds like those sighing at the end of every season during the 1990s. This isn’t the Dark Ages where to take one game from La Salle was like winning a championship. The fact of the matter is all that the various sports programs were implemented because every one in Loyola Heights got sick and tired of losing.

The modest goal this Season 76 was the Final Four. When the Lady Eagles entered the Finals and saw they had a chance to win it all, they went for it. The night before Game Four, it was, “Let’s win this na.” 

The second set was crucial
I also previously wrote that the second set was crucial and that whoever won it usually went on to win the match.

It is not a hard and fast rule, let’s be clear about that.

It was a trend for the series.

So why is it valid?

In coaching, you want a team to win the first set or get a lead in the first quarter. That sort of means your pre-game strategy worked. If it doesn’t then you adjust.

In basketball, you can lose in the first three quarters and still win in the fourth. Furthermore, the team that scores the most number of points wins.

In volleyball, you may not have the most number of points but if you take three sets you can win. Let me explain that further.

For example, you lose the first set 25-5 and the second set, 25-7 but take the third set 25-23, the fourth, 26-24, and the fifth, 15-13; you scored less points but you still win.

Enough with the math.

If you take the first set, you need to just win two more. If you lose the first set, you need to adjust or you’ll fall into a 2-0 hole. In the four finals matches, the team that took a two-sets-to-none lead went on to win the game. And that was how matches two, three and four went. And set number two was crucial.

In Game Four, after Ateneo came back from seven points down to win the second set, La Salle was deflated. Maraño, who is the Lady Spikers’ heart and soul was stunned. And it was Ara Galang trying to pump up her team that was deflated. I do not think that there anyone in the arena or who was watching TV who thought that erstwhile defending champions were on the ropes. 

Championship point
The two teams, their respective stories, and the match-ups the past three years have clearly raised the level, popularity, and awareness of volleyball. The sport has always been popular but it has since exploded into the stratosphere. The success of the college game (and the V-League that has been so instrumental in keeping the game alive) begat the Philippine Super Liga and more sponsorships. It showed that there is more room in the national consciousness for sports outside basketball and Manny Pacquiao.

In these years of green and white dominance, the De La Salle Lady Spikers have showed everyone how the game should be played. And for that we should commend them. Bravo and Animo!

In this past season of blue and white supremacy, the Ateneo Lady Eagles have showed everyone what heart is all about and why even when it looks like a thrice-to-beat-advantage seems daunting and mission impossible, these games have to be played. Heart Strong and One Big Fight!

Up on late Tuesday night my feature of Coach Tai --------------

Additional reading:

A Championship run for the ages

Looking at Game One

Looking at Game Two

Looking at Game Three

At the Ateneo Bonfire


  1. Great article as always, Rick. Congrats! Copy edits lang: 1) "And come on, after playing DLSU two consecutive years in the finals you don’t think Ateneo will commit the same mistakes?" Better: "...DO you think..." 2) "I do not think that there anyone in the arena or who was watching TV who thought that erstwhile defending champions were on the ropes." Maybe better: "...THE erstwhile defending champions were NOT on the ropes..." Heart Strong! OBF!

  2. in game 4, it was apparent that the DLSU team was 'lost' when the Lady Eagles just climbed up from their big lead in the 2nd set. parang they didn't really know what him them. maybe because they were dominant for so long, they didn't think there's anyone out there who can beat them. so they played tight and forgot the system. you can see them crowding in one area, parang disorganized na yung plays nila..which you didn't see from them the entire season. maybe the heart strong mantra got to them, the overconfidence, or they actually forgot that no one is undefeatable. both teams played well, but this time, it clearly showed that when u enjoy the game, anything is possible. kudos to coach tai for instilling the positive vibes not only to the team, but to everyone! it's about time we stop being nega in anything!! :) thanks for your insights. OBF!!

    ps - i'm sure next season, every school will now embrace the 'heart strong' mantra! hihihi...


  3. Its years of hard work ateneo had put up... nagsimula nung simulant ni Roger Gorayeb ang Volleyball program nila. Sila Charo Soriano, cara Acevedo, at Carla bello pa dati nuon.. till dumating sila fille, Dzi, at valdez. Dati pa naman nanalo na sila. Remember shakey's V-League. Nakakuha sila title dun. Pero itong season ng UAAP ang pinaka-matamis. LAdy Eagles seemed to control the LaSalle squad. Nanga-nga ang la sale sa performance nila. It series and the finals will haunt La Salle forever promise..

  4. nice article po... :D For me po habang pinapanood ko yung game.. pansin na pansin po yung pagiging disorganized ng la salle... yung floor defense nila , tpos yung mga errors/violations na unusual sa kanila.. siguro po they are pressured na din... habang yung ateneo po ay nag ga-gain ng confidence sa sunod sunod na panalo.. from do or die with ADU tpos twice to beat with NU tapos natalo nila sa game 1&3.... tska po yung mga rookies ng Ateneo they really played well (Morente and Morado) nakikipag sabayan sila.. they played like veterans.. :D

  5. Sa Ateneo, Den and Amy improved a lot translating into overall better defense - blocking became at par with dlsu (with Gumabao's exit) and floor was miles better with a highly and vastly improved Den den (with Gohing's departure). Attacks and setters remained constant - Jia for Jem, Mich for Dzi, Amy\Ella for Gretchen, Baldo for Fille. And the factor that held them together and that unstrung the greenies? Mental fortitude care of Coach Thai. Go girls. OBF!

  6. Turning point for me was at the first technical time out of the second set at 8-4 LS ahead in game 1. Up until then LS was still oozing with confidence and might be thinking they can fully dictate the games and sets, impose their will, and control the match and series. After that tech tt-o, I didn' hear anything new from coach Thai except the happy fighting mantra, and from then on , like a switch had been flicked, the LE turned everything around. The culmination of the LS meltdown and clear 'takot' was when in the same set, and it was close, Any served at Mila's head! I mean, what the Fl was that?
    Lol. And then the 3 setter by LE in game 1. Clearly, LS was intimidated since then.

    1. You mean Aby Marano served directly into Mika Reyes' head. Lol. Yep saw that one at about 21-20 in the 2nd and it was still anyone's set.