Reloading the Ateneo Lady Eagles
by rick olivares
It took five years for Ateneo to build a UAAP Women’s Volleyball champion squad but school and team officials believe that it won’t take as long to put a team on the taraflex court to compete for the UAAP title they just lost to La Salle despite the loss of three-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez and middle hitter Amy Ahomiro as well as reserve player Mae Tajima.
“The loss of Alyssa Valdez and Amy Ahomiro is huge for us but that is the nature of college sports — people graduate when they are done," said Ateneo team manager Tonyboy Liao, “However, we will continue the hard work that has been done these past few years although we will hope for the return of a few familiar faces for the next season."
Liao was referring to middle hitters Ana Gopico and Maddie Madayag as well as outside hitter Katrina Tolentino who were all out of at one time or another due to injuries. Gopico has not played competitively since the championship year of 2013. Tolentino suffered a season-ending knee injury during warm-ups for its last stint in the Shakey’s V-League collegiate conference while Madayag got hurt in practice at a crucial time when the Lady Eagles sported a 8-2 record. “That was a big loss,” pointed out Liao. “When Katrina got hurt that was in the pre-season so we were able to adjust. While losing Maddie meant that we moved Amy back to her more natural position in the middle, we still lost a valuable player in the rotation."
It isn’t only players coming back from injury who are expected. It is also hoped that a key student-athlete who was an integral part of the back-to-back title will return to action after being sidelined due to academics. "Should outside hitter Mich Morente be given a green light to play, she will be an additional weapon for the Lady Eagles,” added Liao. “She was sorely missed last year as she could play great defense and add more firepower to the lineup hitting-wise.”
While much has been made of the Lady Eagles’ wanting floor defense, Liao believes that this is something the team can work on in the off-season. “We have our work cut out for us,” he succinctly said.
“We have a good holdover of players from Jia Morado, Bea De Leon, Jhoana Maraguinot, Kim Gequillana, GizelleTan, and Ponggay Gaston to name a few. Some like the Gaston sister (including Therese) should improve their games. So having a lot of players back from injury will help us put a more complete lineup on the floor."
Also set to join the Lady Eagles’ training pool are rookies Jules Samonte from De La Salle Zobel, Maxine Yee from St. Pedro Poveda College, and former Brent International School player, Bettina Abella who is already completing her first year at the Ateneo de Manila.
According to Ateneo athletics officials, they will sit down with head coach Anusorn Bundit, team manager Tonyboy Liao late this week to discuss and chart the next season’s activities for the Lady Eagles as well as the entire volleyball program.
Most recently, the Lady Eagles’ coaching staff conducted a volleyball camp for Ateneo Lady Eagles hopefuls.