This appears on the Monday, September 7, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.
Thoughts on the V-League q’finals between Ateneo & NU
by rick olivares
My immediate thoughts about Ateneo’s four-set win over NU in the Shakey’s V-League quarterfinals:
- This reminded me of Game 1 of the UAAP Women’s Finals during Season 76. Where La Salle played very well in the first set but Ateneo finished strong. Then the Lady Eagles continued their good play as they took the next three sets en route to their first UAAP Women’s Volleyball title.
- Alyssa Valdez was inspirational. And Gizelle Tan was incredible.
- This is a game was without any of the acrimony of the previous battles because of the shared history of both teams in the national team.
- After the first set, the Lady Eagles totally shredded NU’s net defense.
The first set. 25-15 NU.
- NU was monstrous at the net, rejecting almost anything Ateneo sent across. And that’s a pretty tall lineup — the Santiago sisters, Aiko Urdas, Myla Pablo, and Rubie De Leon. The Santiago sisters looked imperious and dominating. And Rubie looked to reprise her first stint as a guest player for NU several years ago en route to their first V-League title with her sets and blocking.
- When Dindin Santiago-Manabat gets up for those running spikes of hers she is almost impossible to stop. And fun to watch as well.
- Ateneo’s set was characterized by poor reception, no attacks, and no blocking. Maybe half or more of their 15 points were claimed off NU’s service errors.
- Although Ateneo finished strong. The lead was just too huge to overcome. But their play was getting better.
The second set. 25-19, Ateneo
- With the score at 2-3, NU. Myla Pablo served. Ateneo set up Alyssa for an attack and her patented booming spikes that Pablo was unable to dig. She tumbled but was unable to roll with her movement causing a brief moment of concern for her safety. Alyssa then proceeded to serve two consecutive aces that would give them the lead they wouldn’t surrender for the remainder of the set.
- As the Lady Eagles found their game, NU saw their net defense wilt and found themselves in all sorts of confusion. Case in point, after one Bea De Leon serve, NU was able to hammer the ball all the way to the back where Bea was able to dig the ball only to see it go back to the Lady Bulldogs’ side. Three NU players converged but no one received the ball as it dropped in for an unlikely point. I point this out as an example of how disorganized NU’s defense became after Ateneo played better.
- Ateneo servers began to target Myla Pablo and when she was in the back row you could see her confidence sink. She is clearly a better play up front.
- Ella De Jesus seemed to be somewhat injured and that affected her movement.
- Jhoanna Maraguinot who was having an up and down game righted her game in the second set. After sending a shot out and having another blocked by Rubie, the score was 19-17, Ateneo. Gizelle Tan set up Jho for another shot and this time she made good with a check ball off Aiko Urdas.
The third set. 25-21, Ateneo.
- Even as the Lady Eagles began to play better, NU answered their run with one of their own. With the score at 21-18, Ateneo, Urdas blocked Valdez for a point. Then Pablo hammered another one home to cut the lead into one. With a chance to tie the match, Jaja Santiago committed a service error.
- I was surprised that Rubie wasn’t setting up Dindin or even Jaja as she set up Myla and Jorelle
- With Gizelle Tan serving, she served two consecutive aces that had the crowd rocking. With a chance to close out the set, she committed an error. But Valdez killed NU’s attack for a 2-1 lead.
- Tan finished with 29 excellent sets. She has been a revelation this V-League. This was like a second opportunity to start and show her worth and she has come through. And she's going to end up as the Best Setter of the tournament.
The Fourth Set. 25-23, Ateneo.
- With Dindin Santiago-Manabat unable to score, it was Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo who carried the load for NU.
- Ateneo’s Tai Bundit and NU’s Roger Gorayeb tried their magic bunots but it was the former who succeeded with Kayla Tiangco-Williams who gave a good account of herself with a huge point to boot. Roma Joy Doromal entered the fourth but was inconsequential.
- In a set of run and counter-runs, NU looked to send the match to a fifth set when they went up 20-17 after Jaja hammered one in. Ateneo rallied and with the score even at 23-all, Alyssa Valdez scored on a check ball. Bea De Leon closed out the match when she blocked Airko Urdas.
Alyssa Valdez outscored the Santiago sisters, 28-24. Dindin faded down the stretch but Myla Pablo picked it up.
Post-match, I wondered if the volleyball storylines will follow the men’s basketball route. Several years ago, the Ateneo Men’s Basketball Team felt a tug on their cape when their NU counterparts won some pre-and post-season titles at their expense. Come UAAP time, they dispatched the Bulldogs with clinical precision. The Blue Eagles answered, you can have the other leagues but the UAAP is ours. The Bulldogs have owned Ateneo two years running and now have a UAAP title to call their own. It is the same for volleyball. With close to the same lineup, the Lady Bulldogs pulled the rug from an Ateneo Lady Eagles team that was going for a third V-League crown but Rubie De Leon who was incandescent inspired them to a trophy. Come the UAAP, Ateneo took care of business and now they have two titles and are going for a third straight.
I know that NU wants to not only win a women’s volleyball crown but also the UAAP General Championship. However, for them to take the former, they have to knock down Ateneo.