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, March 7, 2016

Looking at the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ two-game slide

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Looking at the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ two-game slide
by rick olivares

What is ailing the Ateneo Lady Eagles?

To distill it in its simplest form -- poor defense. Second, every other team seems to have stepped up their game while Ateneo still has yet to adjust. They sure didn’t against UP.

Let’s back track.

The Lady Eagles got by in the first round with overpowering offense that masked their deficiency — poor receiving and digging. Opposing teams like UP, UST, Adamson, and FEU were learning the ropes with their team a balance of rookies and veterans. You can make the case for Ateneo having a crop of new players but of the starting six, only converted libero Jamie Lavitoria is the new one (although she was on last year’s championship squad).

The first round for other squads was also developing their chemistry. Check out the way UP played Ateneo this second round. It was much different from their first round encounter. 

You have to give it to La Salle for shattering that mantle of invincibility.

Ateneo raised the bar of women’s volleyball with Anusorn Bundit’s approach to the game. If they were the paragons of fitness and power, well everyone else picked up the baton. And now the other teams are running away with it.

The intensity and ferocity of the Lady Spikers in their recent match was something Ateneo had not faced in a while. The last time I saw that was Game Two of the Season 75 Finals after Ateneo took the finals opener against La Salle. The Lady Spikers came out with fire in their eyes. 

This Season 78, DLSU crushed Ateneo with a violent combination of powerful offense and choking defense. Watching the huddles of that game against La Salle: one, there was no meditation, and two, there was a form of panic (and this was confirmed by a player). 

In Season 77, of the 16 matches Ateneo played, 12 were won via three-set sweeps. Thrice they went the distance and thrice they prevailed. What was missing then was the great floor and net defense that they played.

This Season 78, Ateneo won five three-setters and one four-setter before losing in an embarrassing three-set sweep to La Salle. Now they lost a four-setter after taking the first set.

Even as Ateneo took the first set from UP, they didn’t look that great. They outsteadied UP for sure but they didn’t look great. In fact, the Lady Maroons didn’t even look down after conceding the first set. Instead they raised the level of their game. 

More often than not, whatever Ateneo threw at them they returned. As the game expression goes, hindi mapatay yung bola. When the Lady Eagles did receive they didn’t attack well enough sometimes taking ill-advised shots if not weak put backs. 

The common denominator between La Salle and UP? They are two of the three best defensive teams (the other is UST).

Now Ateneo has its first back-to-back loss. Something they have not had to deal with in three years. 

So how to they deal with this and what do I think?

Two things: first heavy is the head that wears the crown. The Lady Eagles are the hunted. At first, there was the burden of a 24-match win streak that stretched across three seasons. Well, that is a thing of the past. It is time to move forward. But clearly, they are struggling with the weight of expectations (not that there is anything wrong with that but it does come with the territory). UP is playing without any burden of expectations and that is a world of a difference.

Losses either make you. Or they break you. With dangerous NU on deck, we’re about to find out what they are made of. 

However, right now, it’s a confidence problem. Mental, even.

Second, I think that at this point, Bundit might want to re-think his game plan. Maybe someone should transfer that banner that says “Defense wins championships" from the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center to Blue Eagle Gym. 
Ateneo Volleyball Program Director Sherwin Malonzo believes it is a slump.

The famed New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter is one who is accustomed to slumps. Said Jeter about facing slumps during his final season in pinstripes two seasons ago, "I've always looked forward to the next one (game). I always felt that the best way for me to deal with things was to not sit around and dwell on it too much -- good or bad. I try to look forward. I'm 0-for what now; 0-for-24 (in at-bats)? In my mind, I try to forget about that. That's how I try to deal with it. That goes for good things as well. I try to look forward."

"So it's been very difficult for me to enjoy (moments along the way). This season I've tried, but it's still an awkward thing to be going through your last season and trying to enjoy it when you're still trying to win games. I guess my mind just works different than most people, but I've always just tried to move on.”
Indeed. It is time to move on.

The days of “Happy Happy” are suspended for now…. the Lady Eagles have to dig deep and raise the level of their game.

The battle has been joined.


  1. UP is playing like Ateneo was before. Time for the Lady Eagles to make the needed adjustments.

  2. I think during that game they dont have a vocal leader on th floor, Aly seems to be too serious and never talked even durin time out...normally, when they are down sasabihin nia taas nio lang or will remind jia kng ilang attacker meron xa

  3. ring back Amy as middle blocker. Bantay na bantay niya si Mika Reyes last year. It seems Ponggay is a very confident player, sana ipasok siya lalo na kapag di nagfafunction yung ibang players. Parang masyadong binababad yung starting 6. Lavitoria and Tan, are great setters but NOT and maybe never as libero. Try sana ipasok si RIA LO as libero. Pagod at basang basa na si ALY at tinatarget siya sa serve siguro its time to give her some rest sa ibang sets. Maraguinot will lead the team in the coming years for sure. Siya lang ang naglaro ng may confidence sa last 2 games nila.

  4. ADMU is also not used to a hostile crowd. They have been used to being the darlings of volleyball where most of the crowd is cheering for them. In their two losses, their fans were grossly outnumbered by those of their opponents. The Lady Eagles get rattled and lost whenever the crowd goes wild for their opponents and cheer every error that the Ateneans make. I also noticed that a lot of those who rooted for ADMU are not from Ateneo. Thus, they didn't know the cheers of the Blue Babble or they just didn't want to join in. So I hope that in their next games, more of the blue faithful who are mostly present in the basketball games would come and watch the Lady Eagles live and cheer their lungs out for them.

  5. Yes, bring back Amy as middle blocker, i thnk she is more effective if she play middle. Wag na muna experiment kay Amy...