Ateneo completes comeback over Benilde as Valdez drops 32
MANILA, Philippines — Threatened for the first time in the Shakey's V-League 12 Collegiate Conference, the Ateneo Lady Eagles stepped up to the challenge and defeated the College of St. Benilde Blazers, 23-25, 18-25, 25-8, 25-20, 15-10, on Saturday, August 1 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Eagles dug themselves out of a 0-2 grave and blasted the Lady Blazers in the last 3 sets to stay undefeated at 4-0 atop Group B.
Team captain and ace spiker Alyssa Valdez lifted the undermanned Ateneo on her shoulders once more with 32 points she collected from 26 kills, 5 service aces and a block.
"Coach Tai stayed positive all throughout the game and it helped us overcome this challenge," Valdez gave credit to head coach Tai Bundit.
Middle hitter Bea De Leon chipped in 11 markers including 3 rejections while Jhoanna Maraguinot and Kim Gequillana added 9 and 7 points, respectively.
Ateneo suffered another injury blow to its already thinning line-up as reserve Pauleen Gaston twisted her right ankle during warm-up before this game.
Two-time UAAP MVP Valdez admitted having another injured teammate affected the Lady Eagles in the beginning as they struggled and piled up on errors.
The team is also missing setter Jia Morado (knee), Kat Tolentino (ACL) and Michelle Morente (academic reasons), which forced Valdez to suit up by the second game this conference instead of resting longer due to a hectic playing schedule. Libero Ella De Jesus also sat out one game due to an eye infection.
Despite a botched line-up, the Lady Eagles, who tallied 36 errors, pulled themselves together in time to avert a sweep after trailing 2 sets to none early on.
Ateneo blew a 22-20 lead in the opening set and allowed Benilde 4 straight points to reach set point. The Lady Blazers continued to capitalize on the Lady Eagles' shaky start for a 25-18 set 2 victory.
But the back-to-back UAAP champions had enough by the third set and walloped Benilde, 25-8, as their adjustments on rotations clicked.
"Coach Tai, even if we played bad in the first two sets, was very positive toward us," Valdez explained how her team came back in Filipino. "So as players, why would we put ourselves down or feel frustrated if our coach trusts us? I think that was the crucial part of the third set, when coach Tai motivated us."
The motivation worked and the Lady Blazers, who now dropped two games in a row after starting out 2-0, let the potential upset slip from their grasp as they acquired 37 errors.
Jeanette Panaga topscored for Benilde with 17 points and 6 blocks, including several rejections on Valdez, while Jannine Navarro added 14 markers.