After two weeks of booming and banging and bashing, things are perking up at the Shakey’s V-League Season 11. Heavily-favored Ateneo Lady Eagles were unceremoniously shot down, salted and skewered by the tough-as-nails Arellano Lady Chiefs 21-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-20, 15-13 in the biggest upset yet in the ongoing tourney! Making things even more interesting, the defending champions and second seed, National University Lady Bulldogs were also taken to the final set before prevailing over the surprising University of Santo Tomas Tigresses 25-19, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 15-10.
Arellano’s mammoth achievement in trouncing Ateneo showcased the threat of veterans Danna Henson and Christine Joy Rosario, plus the solid defense led by Jan Eunice Galang, as worthy challengers to the crown. The Lady Chiefs were not coerced by the chants from the ‘Heart Strong’ blue faithful, as they erased a 1-2 set deficit, to outwit the usually endgame-savvy Eagles.
In the final set, the Lady Chiefs raced to an 11-5 lead, only to watch it wiped out by a 7-point Eagle cluster bomb-run. For a while, it seemed that the exorcism of coach Tai would continue to prevail despite his absence, as the Eagles snatched the lead, 12-11.
But the Chiefs refused to wilt, and instead came back to scalp the Eagles bald with a 3-point run of their own to win the game. Alyssa Valdez led all scorers with 20 solid points, with Michelle Morente and Amy Ahomiro supporting, plus another new acquisition, Kim Gequillana, showing great promise with 10 solid points. But Ateneo’s listless play showed, with 41 errors costing them the game.
In the equally exciting first offering last Sunday, the NU Lady Bulldogs outlasted the UST Tigresses who unveiled a new star in the making in EJ Laure, daughter of former PBA veteran, Eddie Laure. A rookie fresh from high school, EJ Laure surprised everyone by leading all scorers with 23 solid points, mostly on high-flying killer spikes. Her spectacular efforts, coupled with a winsome smile, made her an instant fan-favorite in the Arena.
With Marivic Meneses, Pam Lastimosa and guest player Rhea Dimaculangan providing depth and solid defense, UST’s Tigresses were set to mangle the Lady Bulldogs by taking the 3rd and 4th sets, and with the momentum clearly on their side.
But Dindin Santiago saved the day for the Bulldogs with her experience and leadership, coaxing the team to hang tight and get back into winning form. Carmina Aganon led a balanced NU offense, underscoring the depth of the Bulldogs’ offensive line. Stratospheric Jaja Santiago, Aiko Urdas and Myka Pablo also figured in the scoring parade.
That said, the Arellano Lady Chiefs now find themselves surprise leaders in Group A, while NU is perched on top of Group B. And the ladies of the hardcourt haven’t showed us everything yet. The games are expected to level up, as some of the teams start to get their guest players in preparation for the more difficult grind ahead. This early, expected to crowd Ateneo and NU for the crown are Arellano, Perpetual Help, Adamson and UST. Watch out for more action, more noise, more thrills, as the booms and the bangs get as hot as the summer up ahead.