Looking at the Ateneo’s poor start to SVL Collegiate Conference
by rick olivares
The way the Ateneo Lady Eagles lost their second consecutive match in the ongoing Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference was shocking and even disappointing.
There are a couple of things to consider.
One, this team wants to prove that they are a team that is more than Alyssa Valdez. It’s tough to prove that when Jhoana Maraguinot hasn’t played and won’t suit up until another two months. Maddie Madayag has yet to show up for practice. While Bea De Leon isn’t 100% and made her conference debut in that match versus the Lady Stags.
Unfortunately, they are 0-2 and even this early some are dismissing them as a contender for a Final Four slot in the UAAP. As early as it may sound, it’s fine. The low expectations could help. But that’s not exactly true. There will still be expectations because this team is still loaded with enough veterans who’ve tasted victory and have gone on to the big dance.
Second, Mich Morente and Ana Gopico are back after a one and two-year absence and the rust and the lack of chemistry is obvious. That the two bumped into each other at one point with Gopico going out with a minor injury (she didn’t return). It should be noted that Gopico is fine.
Speaking of chemistry, on three occasions during that match, a ball dropped or zipped past Ponggay Gaston and Gizelle Tan. Both miscommunicated on receiving the ball.
And third, the Ateneo coaching staff have introduced some new players into the mix such as Gaston and rookie Jules Samonte. Both have had their moments. Gaston led the team in scoring in their first match while Samonte who led the Lady Eagles in their second game was electric on both ends of the court.
The loss can be understood, fine to a certain point given their challenges they’ve had to deal with but there too are a couple of things that need pointing out.
I’d like to point out that almost all their injuries in the past few years came during practices or pre-season; hardly much during the UAAP. While other teams are relatively healthy at this time of the year — and look at their line-ups in the SVL — Ateneo is still or is already banged up.
I don’t need to list who’s who over the past few years but you get the point.
And then that loss to San Sebastian. I am not suggesting that losing is fine or even saying that people should all be upset this early. The losses have been close and we can infer that Ateneo needs a little tweaking and they could just turn the corner. I’d like to point out the manner in which the game was lost in the third set. It’s one thing to lose a close match and another to lose when you’re up 22-10 and surrender a 15-1 run by the opponent to get swept in three straight sets. For a team with some championship veterans they looked lost and nervous.
San Sebastian is no slouch although some observers like to derisively call them a Grethcel Soltones team. They should understand that is how others look at Ateneo too — Alyssa Valdez and nothing more. We know of course that isn’t true in any remote form but what goes around goes around. San Sebastian is hungry and they are a favorite to unseat the College of St. Benilde Lady Blazers come NCAA time. Not because Soltones is there (it has been proven that she can carry the team in stretches but not in the big game as she needs her teammates) but because that Denice Lim will help out and Kate Villegas and Joyce Sta. Rita gained even more confidence from playing in the last Shakey’s V-League Reinforced Conference where they suited up for the Laoag Power Smashers. Those three helped make it a close fight in their Collegiate Conference opening loss to National University.
It has been said that you learn more from losses than victories and that is true. And there is a lot to learn for Ateneo.
In the first game loss to TIP, they alternated between bad starts and good starts for all sets. Against San Sebastian, they started well and racked up a lead then lost it. And how it was lost in the third versus the Lady Stags could play in their heads if not addressed.
The good thing about this is the main UAAP competition is months away so there is a lot of time to correct and improve things. But we shouldn’t waste this opportunity to play top notch competition this early to gauge where we are at.