Looking at the Ateneo-NU 2nd round Women’s Volleyball match
by rick olivares
The National University Lady Bulldogs may be the proper antidote for the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
While the two-game slide in losses to La Salle and UP may be the first for Ateneo in three years, they faced one as well technically this past year when NU piped them in two straight to close out the collegiate conference championship of the Shakey’s V-League.
Ateneo’s next opponent following that? NU in the UAAP Season 78 opener.
And well, we all know what happened that game and we all saw what happened again last Wednesday (a three-set win by the defending champions to get them back on their feet again).
Here are my thoughts following the match:
NU is floundering
Four losses in their last five matches. The season is slipping away. UP is two matches ahead of them at 5-3 while FEU is a match up at 5-4. The Lady Tamaraws will be up against Ateneo this Sunday while NU gets a reprieve against winless UE. But they should be careful for what they wish for as the Lady Warriors are playing a little better. It is actually against UE where they ended their three-match win streak of the first round.
I have never seen a team with more internal issues than NU. This is what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen and when there are buzzards circling around with their own agendas.
The sad thing is — they have the talent and the depth. However, I always thought that the foundation in forming this team was bad. At times they reminded me of a volleyball version of Michigan’s Fab Five. And like Chris Webber and company, the Lady Bulldogs have been long on antics but short on achievement (unless you count the latter's two V-League titles that were won largely with the use of guest players).
All NU had to do was follow the script that La Salle provided — raise the level of intensity, serve howitzers, defend like your life depended on it — but they must have not been watching. The Lady Bulldogs played a chill game and that is to Ateneo’s liking. I never once thought that Ateneo was threatened (unless you’re the type to get nervous when a team takes an early two-point lead) even with the first set close in scoring only because NU didn’t look great.
Their body language says it all. They are floundering. Maybe they should go back to their villainous selves with their gyrations, taunting, and excessive celebration. Playing chill just isn’t their way.
It took a while before the Lady Eagles got going
While NU wasn’t great, Ateneo just had enough to get by the first two sets. I thought that first set reminded me of the first set against UP where the Lady Maroons ended it on an error. The Lady Bulldogs had back-to-back errors to end it at 26-24 for Ateneo.
Clearly, the Lady Eagles were the better side but they weren’t firing on all cylinders. Yet.
Jhoana Maraguinot provided her usual solid back-up scoring to Alyssa Valdez while Kim Gequillana played quality minutes off the bench. The scoring from the wing areas is great but the middle attack was sorely needed (Bea De Leon was superb this game).
The second set, Ateneo didn’t allow NU any sense of rhythm. You can say, this is where the Lady Bulldogs’ backs were broken. Myla Pablo reverted to her underachieving self while I was surprised that Ivy Perez was benched again (Rica Diolan was terrible). If there were some nerves in the first set, they were more relaxed in the second. And that was the difference. They were more in control.
And by the third set, Ateneo’s Maddie Madayag — who had played like a rookie against La Salle, UP and was somewhat lost again in the first two sets against NU -- found her groove. One good hit in the middle, and she was off to the races with her blocking, serving, and hits.
When a team is struggling, any win will help. There are good signs.
For one, they were smiling more. Something that was absent for the past two matches. Even during that close first set versus NU, they were at ease. They tensed up somewhat when they coughed up that late four-point lead as NU tied the match at 24. But the Lady Eagles got past it.
Second, they were better defensively in this game. Jamie Lavitoria was shaky at times but Gizelle Tan came in and was stellar. Their net defense was better.
Third, the better reception meant that Jia Morado had a lot of room to operate. She finished with 32 excellent sets; her most since the season opener against NU (she finished with 33 that match).
It is a big win for Ateneo. But there are still kinks to be worked out. Amy Ahomiro still has to get back in the groove. She had another lackluster outing for the third straight game. But to be fair to Kiwi, she has been struggling ever since her ankle injury the night before the La Salle match. So you know she’ll be really ready this Sunday.
And speaking of Sunday, the Ateneo Lady Eagles go up against dangerous FEU at the Filoil Flying V Centre. It is going to be plenty interesting.