The Lady Eagles continued to ride its magical mystery tour by outlasting a game but luckless Lady Falcons 25-19, 18-25, 25-23, 26-24 in the opening of the Shakey’s V-League Season 11. Coming after an exciting UAAP championship which saw the underdog Ateneo Lady Eagles pull a huge upset, the Shakey’s spikefest opening lured in a huge number of fans eager to watch the Lady Eagles continue their dream flight to glory.
And they were not disappointed. Despite the presence of former Lady Falcon Pau Soriano and a steadying foreign import in Sangmuang Patcharee, the Falcons could not find enough breaks, eventually losing to the gutsy Eagles. In both the 3rd and 4th sets, the Falcons were comfortably ahead before the Eagles – egged on by the strong presence of the Ateneo blue faithful – would somehow find the will to steal both sets.
Ateneo paraded two guest players, Riza Sato from Japan and their new find, the lanky Bea De Leon. Sato saw limited action in the 2nd set, which the blue belles eventually lost, prompting interim coach Parely Tupaz to revert to the winning UAAP formula in the last two sets. Sato was apparently still warming up to Ateneo’s new system, while De Leon is obviously here for the experience, a project for the future. Tupaz, subbing for coach Tai Bundit who is still in Thailand, believes the 2 can have a significant effect in the already explosive Ateneo arsenal as the games roll into the next rounds.
As usual, Alyssa Valdez finished with a game-high 23 points, but it was Amy Ahomiro’s binge of aces in the 3rd canto and her superb blocking particularly in the crucial exchanges in the last set that rallied the Ateneo blues to victory. Michelle Morente and Jia Morado, the 2 outstanding rookies, also provided their championship form; with steady defender, Denden Lazaro, to signify Ateneo’s clear intention to win the crown this time.
Despite the loss, the Lady Falcons demonstrated how potent a threat they could be. Soriano managed a strong 19 points, despite being visibly off-form. Patcharee’s leap lacked the usual elevation but she compensated with her uncanny savvy of the game and an impeccable defense. With the dangerous duo of Mylene Paat and Sheila Pineda, expect more crisp attacks from Adamson once Pau and Patch peak in the coming rounds.
The defending champions and UAAP 2nd runner-up, NU Lady Bulldogs showed just enough talent to dust off the NCAA champions University of Perpetual Help Lady Altas 25-20, 25-14, 25-15 in the second game of the season opener. The Lady Bulldogs displayed fine form with Dindin and Jaja Santiago, Myla Pablo and Carmina Aganon combining for a dizzying and well-distributed firing line. Notwithstanding the credible performance from his wards, newly installed coach Ariel de la Cruz quipped that they were still looking for the right imports in preparation for the more gruelling rounds ahead.
The Lady Altas tried to make a fight out of it, with skipper Honey Royse Tubino and high-flying Norie Jane Diaz leading the attack, but the Bulldogs’ stratospheric advantage was in full display at the net, thwarting the Altas’ offensive forays and keeping them on the defensive for the most part. All is not lost for the Altas though, as they still have time to bring in an import or two to beef up their frontline.
Despite the absence of the feared La Salle Lady Spikers, the tourney promises a high-intensity, action-filled smash-and-bash affair as it brings in the UAAP’s finest, the top four teams from the NCAA, plus – for the first time – three heralded teams from the Visayas and Mindanao. In all, a record total of 12 teams are participating to make the games highly competitive. On top of that, the provision to allow each team to import one foreign and one local player is expected to level the playing field and produce more sizzling slams and saves.
This early, the defending champs NU Lady Bulldogs and the UAAP titlist Ateneo Lady Eagles are expected to eyeball each other come the finals. But the rest of the field cannot be written off, as evidenced by Adamson’s strong challenge in this season’s very first encounter. Join us as we follow more slam-bang action at the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 – Where It All Started.
(Photos courtesy of spin.ph, rappler.com, pinoy exchange.com, jeff venancio, ph.sports.yahoo.com, gmanetwork.com, bleachersbrew.blogspot.com)