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, May 8, 2017

Post-UAAP thoughts on the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ campaign.

Post-UAAP thoughts on the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ campaign.
by rick olivares

Thanks to the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball Team – it’s officials, coaches, and players. I totally appreciate what they gave of themselves to this season. They might have fallen short of the ultimate objective but I remain proud of the effort. Second place isn’t so bad when you’re up against the best volleyball in the land and now back-to-back champs.

The Ateneo Lady Eagles gave us some season – finishing second in both the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference and the UAAP tournament. Between the two, the latter was more winnable, but it wasn’t meant to be.

In the wake of the loss, it feels like a double punch to the gut after setter Jia Morado announced that she wasn’t coming back. And truthfully, those in the know, myself included, have known about that fact, for a year now. From what I project as another Ateneo-La Salle finals meeting in Season 80, well, it now depends on who Ateneo has for a setter and a libero.

But that’s for another time.

I’d like to share a few observations and thoughts.

The defense took a step back.
Sure the offense was very good but the defense took a step back in two of three categories in from Season 78 to 79. And we weren’t very good in Season 78.

Season 78
Season 79

I have voiced some cryptic concerns and will say it now.

I love how Katrina Tolentino came in and played well. There were games where she didn’t contribute but let’s cut her some slack as it is her first major tourney. Yet having said that, I wondered why when she would rotate to the back row, they’d keep her in. For one, her vertical leap isn’t high for consistent back row attacks and two, I think because of all her previous knee injuries, her lateral movement isn’t that quick to be digging all those balls in the back. Her height coupled with the lack of that quick lateral movement hurts her defensively. It is the same reason why Jaja Santiago more often than not is rotated out when she goes to the back (after her serve).

Why not use Kim Gequillana who was vastly underutilized this season? She can play a variety of positions. What’s with this specialist thing? I do not buy that. Never have.

I am sure that the coaches worked on the defense. But obviously, it didn’t work out. So hopefully, they can figure that out what went wrong and how they can address it.

The lack of players – outside Jia Morado – to stand up and carry this team.

When Alyssa Valdez graduated, quite a few people especially among the officials said that we have a better team. And I agree. But with one major caveat — you need some go-to player to carry you when the going gets tough. For NU, it is Jaja Santiago, for UST it is Cherry Rondina, for La Salle, you go to Kim Dy aside from their many weapons.

I don’t not believe that a team of no-stars can win it. Show me the evidence that it happens.

If you look at La Salle, they have four players who are either the best or among the top in their positions – libero Dawn Macandili, setter Kim Fajardo, middle hitter Majoy Baron, and open hitter Kim Dy.

For Ateneo, there was only setter Jia Morado. Bea De Leon was superb this year. And with Morado out, give Bea the captaincy. NOW.

You need someone or quite a few people to really tow you to a championship. Jhoana Maraguinot was anointed heir apparent to Valdez and she is a massive part of what makes the Lady Eagles go. However, she needs to really raise it to another level. Her poor decisions on attacks along with Mich Morente’s hurt the team in Game 2. Costly costly errors. Sure she had an injury but that’s all part of the game. Besides, how sure are we that the Lady Spikers weren’t battling their own niggling injuries?

Ateneo needs to have a few players who are the best or are among the best in their positions.

At the times when some players weren’t performing to par, why didn’t the coaching staff go to the bench?
What was the point of playing the bench in the second round if they weren’t going to be used? When Maraguinot and Morente were committing all those errors, why weren’t they given a breather even for a couple of minutes? Sitting out a few minutes will allow them to collect their thoughts and figure out what they need to do.

Why not try out Ponggay Gaston? Jules Samonte? And of course, Gequillana?

Can we utilize the timeouts in a better fashion?
We aren’t a team that is constantly (read that word again) able to come back from big deficits. That mental strength that we were so proud of burst like a bubble in big time fashion this finals series. Closing it out became so tough. And at times, it took a while before a timeout was called.

And can we have more to the huddles than “happy happy”? I am not saying we should ditch that. Keep it. But for Heaven’s sake, our coach has been here for four years and he still cannot speak in English. You need to offer clear and concise ideas, orders, and adjustments to your players who are in need of them.

La Salle clearly adjusted to Ateneo after their back-to-back finals losses of Season 76 & 77. Ateneo has to understand that what got us to the back-to-back is long over. It’s time to raise it to a different level. While the Lady Eagles are clearly better than most sides, most sides aren’t the barometer for women’s volleyball. It’s La Salle. You measure yourself against them because they are the champions. This team was good enough to win it all. I certainly thought so and pegged them to accomplish that as early as after the last V-League Collegiate Conference.

It was a painful loss made worse with Morado leaving. And now, there’s more work to be done. Does Deanna Wong move to setter or does she stay at libero? And I know Ateneo has a rule where the players cannot play in the commercial leagues. I think they should adjust that. If the player can handle his or her school load, then they should be allowed. The experience will help them. Of course, the participation should be monitored with ample rest and recovery because we do want to avoid injuries. But as it has happened the past four years – all the major injuries were sustained during practice and not during games. Let’s be clear about that. Now if the school will not budge on that rule, then we have to find ways to sharpen everyone’s skills and develop their mental fortitude.

Well, hope springs eternal. Next year means you get a chance for another go. Hopefully, we take to heart and mind the lessons from these last two seasons. First, allow them to heal their minds and their bodies.

Nevertheless, thanks for the valiant and great effort, Ateneo Lady Eagles from the coaching staff down to the players. Still proud of what was accomplished. No shame in losing to the best.

Thanks for everything and I do mean it from the bottom of my heart.

But you know... there's also something too to be proud about outside the ALE... that's the Ateneo Men's Voleyball Team! Hey, it's a three-peat! That's plenty damn good.



  1. Nice analysis Ricky and I agree on your points.

    Jia is the anchor and stabilizer of the ALE for the last few years and now her decision to forgo her last playing year leaves a big hole in ALE's S80 campaign.

    I agree that Tai Bundit needs to adapt his coaching style specifically against La Salle. Whilst he is still a puzzle to the rest of the coaches, it seems Ramil de Jesus has long worked out how to outwit him. The latter is a master tactician, knows his pieces really well, known to rigorously study his opponents, is able to perform in-game adjustments with ease and most importantly is known to be a great motivator/communicator (and father figure!) to the Lady Spikers. Maybe Sherwin can assume that role and have the soft skills to match Ramil's and relegate Tai as team consultant. Yes, BDL is a shoo-in as S80 captain.

    Talent-wise, I gave it to the ALE to win it all this year but for next year DLSU is already looking formidable after this back to back win. DLSU lost only one key player with Fajardo but as we all know they are able to polish raw talent into a gem year after year (for the last 20 years!).

    It is going to be a huge challenge to management and coaching staff if they want to contend the title in S80. BIG questions need to be discussed and answered and TOUGH decisions will need to be made. Good thing is there's one whole year to work on those.

    Cheers to both teams for putting up another great volleyball season that we can easily add to our rivalry collection.

    Jhun S (DLSU '96)

  2. Nice insight Sir Ricky...thank you for the right-up... Its all true. Losing the championship trophy is normal because its a game. One may Win and one may loose. But the one who breaks my heart so JIA's announcement. But then again I respect and accepted it with all my heart though its aching 💔💔💔... Still my love and support for JIA will be forever stay whatever journey she choose. 💙💙💙😘💋

  3. Totally agree:
    1. We gotta have more discussions on tactics during TOs. The lack of it put added pressure in Jia to adjust the offense. She needed an outside perspective cuz good as she is, she can't see every adjustment option from inside the court.
    2. That last game was a replay of the 2nd rd NU game. Jho was winded as early as the 3rd set. Notice how she had her hands on her waist? Sure sign of fatigue. She needed a respite. Can't believe Tai couldn't see that. Ans just like that NU game, it ended with a tired Jho attack error.
    3. And oh yes, we needed subs. Geq and Jules should have been fielded when Jho and Mich were committing errors in receives and attacks respectively. Lasal targetted Jho like they targetted Aly in her 1st 2 years.
    4. As for a coaching change, Sherwin or Oliver are both capable!

  4. I finally found a post that would put all my thoughts into words. Kudos sir.

    ALE's defense though, they really did great on Set 1 of Game 2. Jia was able to spread their offense properly with close to none minimal errors and DLSU was not able to keep up with it. To be honest, UST’s coach Kungfu Reyes was correct - ALE had what it takes to win this year. Everyone was a star player to be honest. However, I don't agree that one sole player should just take the "Star" player role of the team. That was their mistake on the final year of Valdez. She took everything upon herself, she forgot she had awesome teammates to work with thus the fatigue and low blows in the last few sets of Season 78.

    I believe the issue here is a matter of coaching and management style, and I think Tai Bundit lacked that a lot this year. I even can bet that he was not even able to prepare for Jia’s replacement - the fact that they’ve known this would be her last playing year anyway and we have no idea who would even replace her. The lack of knowing when a player is tired is definitely a red flag on a coach - your comment on Maraguinot was spot on. The happy-happy stints won’t work anymore, I agree.

    I agree too! Bea De Leon should take the captain role. Only because you can definitely see how much she wants to win the championship which was evident on how much affected she was of their loss - thus pulling her team back to a better side of wanting the championship more.

    To be honest, if Maraguinot took it upon herself to really take that role or even Morente for that matter, I think they were going to make a difference this year. I am not saying they didn’t want to be champions, but it wasn’t really evident at all. Leadership is not about being humble all the time, it's a matter of stepping up, and I saw that none of them took it this year. Morente, a bit, but Maraguinot, no. BDL, a big YES.

    I’m totally rooting for this team, and I hope after their drunken night tonight, they would take this to heart and think about where they are going next year. Hopefully, Jia would think again and not leave the team without even training someone to replace her. Succession is a mark of a good leader, which I’m challenging Jia for that matter now. She definitely is a legacy to the corps. However, is she really a good leader? Think Jia.

    1. agree with you especially on the fatigue comment. Maraguinot herself admitted that she got really tired on game 1, after the 3rd set. If I remember it right 40 plus sets where given to her. You cannot blame her for feeling the fatigue from jumping from one set to the other especially with her vertical leap. Plus, the fact that her defense was being targeted by LaSalle the entire finals series. This is exactly what they did to Valdez last season to tire her off and to try to frustrate her. The coaching staff should have seen this coming.

      I think Maraguinot felt the pressure from the time Alyssa graduated from the team. From almost everyone tagging her as the heir apparent, the pressure of that and what was expected from her has gotten the best of her. Don't get me wrong she played well, gave the team big time points but has been on and off the entire season, she averaged 14pts this season but I felt she could have done more not just on offense and defense but leadership as well. Like what you've said if she took it upon herself to really step-up she could have been even more instrumental to their campaign this season.
      For Morente, she has been another big factor all season long but has committed so many attack errors in Game 2. By the way, even given that she scored the most points for the ALE.
      Like you, I am rooting for this team ever since Season 73. Yes, people might say we are critical only because we believed in what this team can do. And, let’s give them the break to have some fun, twice a day training for almost a year is grueling.
      For the rest of ALE there’s still Season 80 to really show case what you can do. I’m hoping for a much more improved Kat Tolentino and Jules Samonte. For Maraguinot and Morente to be more solid in all aspects of the game especially during crunch time - mental toughness. Here’s to a hopeful Season 80 ALE, come back stronger!!!

  5. Thank you, Sir Ricky for that analysis. I agree on all the points you have mentioned.
    1. Kat Tolentino’s defensive rotation – in Set 2 of Finals Game 1 the score was 16-21 before Kim Fajardo started serving. Kim Gequillana was at the back row for Kat Tolentino but after the rally that went LaSalle’s way Kat was sent back in right away. I thought it was a bad move as she became Kim Fajardo’s serving target that gave Lasalle 7-0 run. Kat Tolentino can be a lethal weapon in the front row but still needs a lot of progress to work on, hitting variation, power and timing in blocking but like what you said it’s her first year. Her first UAAP debut is not bad at all.

    2. Reception and digging was shaky all season long. There were days that they play good defense but noticed that this were the times where they are ahead of the game and that’s where mental toughness comes into play. There were several instances where they were able to come back from being behind like the two elimination games against LaSalle. Coach Sherwin Meneses was added to the coaching staff I believe to improve floor defense as that was the specialty of the Adamson Lady Falcons during his time. We (ADMU) can be the best offensive team but that should be complimented with solid floor defense that starts from reception.

    3. The lack of players – outside Jia Morado – to stand up and carry this team. I agree, well Bea De Leon has been a big, big factor this year not just in output offense and defense wise but also in helping to boost and stabilize the team in crunch time. We need Jho and Mich to step-up to the leadership role.

    4. Time-outs – in crucial games especially in crunch time Coach Tai need to start drawing up plays and instruct adjustments needed to be done as the players cannot see everything while being inside the court the whole time.

    5. Deep bench – it has been mentioned many times that Ateneo’s deep bench is an advantage but is has been under-utilized in the finals series.

    It was a great season for the Lady Eagles and they could have won the championship but like what you said being second is not a bad thing at all especially this is the first season post the Alyssa Valdez era. The observations shared are for the improvement of the team this coming Season 80. All in all, thank you for the One Big Fight Lady Eagles. I think you have achieved more than what was expected of you this Season 79. And yes, BEA DE LEON for captaincy this Season 80. If and only if Jia decides to return they can be co-captains.

  6. for my own opinion the lady eagles big problem on defense started when dejesus and lazaro left the team, i can still remember on Shakeys vleague that time instead of using a possible libero replacement for lazaro that time they use dejesus.And heres uapp 78 thier defense went down​ its because of libero, faulty reception, digging is not thier Jia is running all over the court to set the ball. here we are season 79 Ateneo correct me if im wrong they we're #7 in digging and #5 in reception compared to LaSalle it #2 and #1. Jia is really working double time to set the ball perfectly this pass 2 season and im really admire her she's doing everything to set the ball. And now Setting problem is a huge one, no good libero and now setter thats Big problems for season 80. Unless they could bring good recruits or players from bench that could fill in on thoes missing link.

    1. Spot on. Libero position. I really thought Wong would do a denden'ish kinda thing in the finals. Didn't happen. Now next year, we will have 2-fold problem on both attack and defense: Setting and digging. Depends on where Wong would thrive at or, i hope not, neither. Still hopeful though. Obf!

  7. Spot on analysis Ricky. What bothers me most is that the weakness in the libero position was already obvious in season 78 so why after 2 years have ALE still not addressed the problem? Why have they not recruited a legitimate libero? My next point is that it hurts losing in the finals again but for me the biggest heartbreak is losing Jia Morado ������. She was the heart and soul of the ALE this year. A true example of Magis and ADMG.