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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ateneo Lady Eagles: Still a work in progress.

Ateneo Lady Eagles: Still a work in progress.
by rick olivares pic by joseph nocos

As impressive as Ateneo was in taking down hitherto undefeated UP in three sets, they still aren’t close to being what they should. It was the best game of the season that is about to reach its halfway mark. Now they have to sustain it and improve in the other aspects of the game. 

If you’re rooting for that team in blue and white, I’d exercise restraint and caution. After all, the game is filled with highs and lows.

Talking to head coach Anusorn Bundit last Sunday evening, I commended him for his team’s big win and strong showing. Yet I wanted him to validate the notion that the defense still needs some work.

“Defense… need to improve, ah,” succinctly pointed out the Lady Eagles’ fourth year coach.

It isn’t false modesty. The man knows what he is talking about. Furthermore, we agree.

If you look at where Ateneo was this time of the year during Season 78 (Alyssa Valdez’ last season) and this year, you’ll agree with Bundit.

Defensive Category
Season 78 First Round Rank
Season 79 First Round Rank

“More work to do,” concluded Bundit. “Much work.”

If there’s anything that the Lady Eagles can take away and build on from the win over UP is it was their defense. You can be sure that other teams will continue to test them and La Salle will be a stern test.

Let’s hold that thought for a moment and turn to the other side of the court.

Offensively, they are much better now than last season. With one more match to play before the first round ends, they have scored the most number of points with 490 (29 more than second placer La Salle).  And they are pretty much where they were from last season in all three offensive categories.

Offensive Category
Season 78 First Round Rank
Season 79 First Round Rank

However… and that is a huge however, during the halfway mark of Season 78, Alyssa Valdez was the only Atenean in the top ten in scoring. The next Lady Eagles were ranked #20th-22nd and that was Maddie Madayag, Jhoana Maraguinot, and Bea De Leon respectively.

If you look at scoring this year, there are three Lady Eagles in the top ten: Mich Morente (4th), Maraguinot (7th), and De Leon (10th). That’s a more spread out offense for Bundit this year. Kat Tolentino is 21st. So no surprise, Ateneo is tops in spiking with 243 and a 39% success rate.

While the spread out offense is good for the team and Jia Morado continues to shine and remain underappreciated, it should be pointed out that there is another emerging force for the Lady Eagles.

And that is Bea De Leon. This isn’t discounting the return of Morente that has added another weapon for the team or the strong showing of Tolentino. Or Gyzelle Tan’s looking more stable as the team’s libero. Far from that. This is a team effort.

However, we have to point to De Leon’s continued rise. From her rookie year playing in the V-League to the UAAP season proper, she has tantalized with her talent. Look at her now.

10th in scoring while averaging 10.1 points per match.
As of this writing, rated best spiker with a 48% success rate.
7th best blocker.

I’d also say that more than being a two-way player for Ateneo, she is the team’s emotional leader. Yet, with Bea, it isn’t all overt displays of emotion. If you caught that game against UP, she was focused and calm. None of her usual displays of fire and emotion. And the Lady Eagles, who have made a reputation of not showing up opponents, followed her lead. Just smile, exchange high fives, no running around or dancing. Just go back and play.

And she plays great defense (and we all look forward to that return bout against Jaja Santiago).

Now that provides a perfect segue to that last thought…. defense.

De Leon forms a quite a tall wall along with Madayag and Tolentino. By far, they aren’t the Great Wall of Katipunan just yet. They have to earn that tag some more. They are the first line of defense though. And that also means the others will have to do their part. And for sure, they will have their hands full against a surging La Salle squad.

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