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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Analysis: Ateneo’s Final Four win over FEU

Analysis: Ateneo’s Final Four win over FEU
by rick olivares

Remy Palma tried her best to be Jaja Santiago for her Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws. She stared down, scored, gave Ateneo fits, but at the end, it wasn’t enough. The Lady Eagles prevailed in four sets (25-22, 25-10, 16-25, 25-24) to take their final four match-up.

And for the sixth consecutive year, it’s going to be an Ateneo-La Salle finals for the UAAP Women’s volleyball crown.

Why couldn’t FEU get the job done?

If you look at how NU was able to defeat Ateneo, they got contributions from all sides of the court on offense – from the wings and from the middle. When you offer that kind of offense – as Ateneo does to its opponents – then the Lady Eagles or any team for the matter, will struggle defensively.

The Lady Bulldogs got double figures scoring sock from Jorelle Singh and Aiko Urdas with Santiago, Sato, and Nabor hammering them from the middle.

La Salle accomplished the same in last year’s finals with Kim Dy and Ara Galang firing from the wings and points coming from Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Kim Fajardo, and Majoy Baron in the middle. In contrast, Ateneo only got points from the open and utility position from Alyssa Valdez and Jhoana Maraguinot.

You might ask, didn’t La Salle offer the same this year – scoring from all sides? Sure, they did. But Ateneo answered them point for point and then some. It came down to defense and errors.

FEU can’t win with Palma and Bernadeth Pons the only scoring options. I thought that Toni Basas’ overall subpar season hurt them. Plus, the Lady Tams’ lack of stability at the setter position. I don’t think you can keep changing setters. That means there’s inconsistency. The UST Golden Tigresses, the other team in the Final Four also suffered from the same. And both teams with rotating setters got bundled out in a hurry.

You have to be solid at certain positions. To beat top sides like Ateneo and La Salle, you have to bring everything to the table and then some.

What can we glean from Ateneo’s game?

Let’s get this out of the way… they have this tendency to step off the gas pedal and commit errors or make poor attacking decisions in bunches. Not the first time we’ve seen this – against La Salle, NU, and FEU, of course.

However, they survived it and pulled off a huge win.

Think about that for a minute… they can see their game drop precariously and they still win. That steel-nerved resolve is due to many factors.

One of which is the championship experience gained so valuably from playing in the UAAP, the V-League, and the national team.

The return of Jhoana Maraguinot gave Ateneo its full complement of weaponry. And for the most part, they were firing on all cylinders today – Michelle Morente, Bea De Leon, Katrina Tolentino, Ana Gopico, and Jia Morado.

A lot has been said about Morado’s play, who in spite of her constant press and accolades, is someone who I call, “the quiet Phenom”. She refuses to draw attention to herself but is phenomenally amazing. Volleyball fans are blessed to see her, La Salle’s Kim Fajardo, and even NU’s Jasmine Nabor, all playing at the same time. Morado was once ore brilliant – on offense and defense.

We can point out to Morente as well who is one of the best two-way players in the league. But for this match, we have to single out two – De Leon and back up libero Deanna Wong.

De Leon has been this team’s emotional leader. But she has learned to temper her emotions. Having seen her during her senior year in high school, her rookie V-League collegiate conference with Ateneo, and all the way to her first UAAP season, how she has grown as a talent is a marvel to behold. How quickly she turned from a diamond in the rough to a vastly dependable all-around player! And she can get even better! How crazy is that?

As for Wong… you have to give a lot of credit to Ateneo head coach Anusorn Bundit who has really given his bench layers a massive break this second round and Final Four. Gopico might have overtaken Maddie Madayag but you know the latter is just there. And if you ask me, she arguably has the best serve on this team. Jules Samonte didn’t do too well in her Final Four debut but she’ll be better for that experience. But Wong… she was very good. That gives you a luxury with Gizelle Tan too there. I could be wrong here but do you know anyone who has won two different major individual awards in the V-league? Tan won Best Setter and then best Libero two years running (for the collegiate conference). Wong playing well is very good insurance for the Lady Eagles.

And they’ll have all that and more against La Salle this coming weekend. It’s going to be another bonanza finals for all fans.

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