This appears on philstar.com
The Lady Eagles show verve and tease for the future
by rick olivares
Struggling with injuries throughout the tournament and players rotating in and out of the line-up, the Ateneo Lady Eagles put themselves in a position to enter the finals of the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference with a three set win (25-14, 28-26, 25-22) over Far Eastern University in Match One of their semi-finals series.
However, the FEU Lady Tamaraws were dealt a severe blow to their position when they were stunned with their own pre-game time injury to Bernadeth Pons who hurt her ankle during warm-ups. Celine Domingo, a recent transferee from the University of the East where she was team captain, was inserted into the line-up but was unable to help her beleaguered teammates as she finished with only two points. Domingo played in five of six previous matches for FEU averaging 3.8 points although she was not fielded in their quarterfinals match versus Ateneo wherein the Lady Tamaraws won in three sets.
Pons on the other hand is the Lady Tamaraws’ third leading scorer behind Toni Basas (19.6) and Remy Palma (14.0) with over 12 points an outing.
The Lady Eagles on the other hand have not had open spiker Jhoana Maraguinot play all tournament long due to a foot injury while middle hitter Bea De Leon missed a pair of games. Sophomore middle hitter Maddie Madayag who has not played since her injury during the last UAAP season still isn’t in uniform.
Ateneo captain Michelle Morente who has been a huge factor in her return to the line-up after missing last season due to academics was suffering back pains heading into the semi-finals as well and she opted to play. She felt that she could still play and lead her team.
Her appointment was a beguiling one for Lady Eagle watchers as it seemed that setter Jia Morado would was the logical choice. However, head coach Anusorn Bundit felt that the comebacking Morente would rise to the challenge. Morado is nevertheless, co-captain.
Volleyball observers on the other hand have generally pegged the Ateneo girls as having fallen off the power charts as they have struggled without the graduated Alyssa Valdez and Amy Ahomiro with their struggles in tournament.
For one, none of them participated in the first conference of the SVL as they opted for more rest and to concentrate on their summer classes. The National University Lady Bulldogs and the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons on the other hand participated while a few of the Lady Tamaraws participated in the Philippine Superliga.
What is impressive about the banged up Lady Eagles is how they were able to exact revenge thus far on three of the four teams that have defeated them in this conference. They lost successive elimination round matches to Technological Institute of the Philippines and San Sebastian College then got back at them in the knockout matches. They also lost to FEU in the quarterfinals and now returned the favor. Further to that, they dealt previously undefeated NU their first and only loss of the tourney thus far.
These Lady Eagles will be deep come the UAAP — 11 deep at the most — Morente, Ponggay Gaston, Gizelle Tan, De Leon, Ana Gopico, Morado, Jules Samonte, Maraguinot, Kim Gequillana, Madayag, and perhaps Katrina Tolentino who has also not played since her own injury prior to the start of last season collegiate conference of the SVL. During warm-ups no less! Go munch on that nugget.
When you look at the six starting in the current tourney - Morente, Gaston, Tan, De Leon, Gopico, Morado, and Gequillana, who do you bring off the bench because you cannot waste a wondrous weapon like Maraguinot?
But that’s a good problem for later.
Right now, the Lady Eagles have put themselves in a surprising (to some and perhaps not surprising to others) position to barge into the finals. FEU for sure aren’t slim pickings. I wasn’t too surprised that they lost to Ateneo in game one of the semis. As much as the Lady Tamaraws have a veteran team, the Lady Eagles have nine players who have won championships in the UAAP while also having gone to the title series in the SVL. That’s experience that cannot be replaced. Hunger for the Lady Tamaraws is huge and compelling factor. It could even out matters as well because one cannot win it on experience and depth alone. It’s about desire as well. Furthermore, the Lady Tamaraws will be contenders this coming UAAP season as well.
Bundit cannot wait to put his team and comebacking players (Maraguinot, Madayag
What won yesterday’s match?
Losing Pons might be somewhat of a factor. I thought it was more of Ateneo’s energy and floor defense - something they did not display much last season after losing Denden Lazaro and Ella De Jesus — that made the difference. They received, dug, and dove for balls. Morado’s excellent save and subsequent set for a point while sitting down typified the effort.
The Lady Eagles proved that they can still compete and bounce back. The other question this conference has been about consistency.
We will find out in Game Two.