Don’t look now but there’s a refreshing new team that’s been shaking up the Shakey’s V-League spike parade. Yep, the Davao Lady Agilas, a selection of some of the top volleybelles from the south, have notched three exciting wins, including one against the defending champs NU Lady Bulldogs, to gain an outright quarterfinal slot and come out the new darlings of the court.
Their first win, a four-set dust-off of perennial contender, FEU Lady Tams, was clearly a portent of things to come. However, their second win, fashioned against an undermanned, yet fully-determined Perpetual Help Lady Altas, was done in dramatic fashion that showed their dogged determination and never-say-die character.
Perpetual had won the first 2 sets in championship fashion, 23-25, 24-26; and were expected to breeze through the third set. But no, the Lady Agilas inched close as the Altas relaxed in the third to win, 25-18. The Lady Altas’ veterans Abigael Praca and Norie Diaz tried to rally their team in the fourth set, but the Lady Agilas would not budge.
Instead, the ‘no-retreat-no-surrender’ Agilas rode that momentum to take the 4th set, 25-20, and set the stage for a nail-biting 5th set. It was a seesaw match with Perpetual showing their championship savvy by rallying to a 14-all deadlock with 4 unanswered points off a sizzling offensive display. But Davao’s miracle-workers just hung tough, eventually willing themselves to win the set 17-15 through Mitch Agton’s heroics.
While the come-from-behind win thrilled the crowd, what was ominous about the game was that the Lady Agilas had not shone their A-game in that match and yet were able to pull through. This was a listless, error-prone team that had taken a great amount of licks, and had come back hitting back with head unbowed. What was evident was that given the exposure and some breaks, this team was indeed going places.
Yesterday, the Lady Agilas finally exploded a nuclear-bomb-of-a-performance. Pitted against the only other unbeaten squad in the tournament – the defending champion NU Lady Bulldogs no less – the Agilas tightened the screws on their defense and showed no mercy, 25-20, 30-28, 14-25, 32-30. Davao’s spirited Agilas exchanged big bombs and blocks, displayed their own brand of dazzling digs and precision sets, and upstaged the grizzled veterans of Shakey’s with such aplomb and with an unflinching spirit.
If the Ateneo Lady Eagles ‘played happy’ to win the recently-concluded UAAP tourney, it seems that this is the Davao Lady Agilas turn to play their winning brand of happy ball. These girls were just so happy to play with the elite of Manila, yet were not allowing themselves to be mesmerized nor intimidated. There simply was no amount of northern savvy that could derail them in their uphill journey.
In the second set, the Lady Bulldogs lost four set-points (yes, four!) before the Lady Agilas finally took the lead and stole the set at 30-28. And after giving the Lady Bulldogs some measure of dignity in the third set, 14-25; the southern Agilas came back in the 4th set to fight for every point as if their very lives depended on them. In the end, despite the overpowering presence of reigning MVP Dindin Santiago, the exorcised Lady Agilas would wow the crowd with a tough-as-nails attitude to outlast the defending champs 32-30.
Davao’s astounding Lady Agilas are indeed soaring high. With Agton, Venus Flores, Princess Joy Olivares, Angel Mae Antipuesta and Jocemir Tapic alternating in raining bombs all over the court, plus Reynalen Raterta, Irish Dignadice and Cherry Anne Balse propping up a stonewall defense, the Agilas are serving notice and rapidly making believers of discerning Manila fans. Add to that coach Shane Alagao, whose confidence and demeanor has done wonders for the team. And we have a team that will give Manila’s best a run for their money.
Expect more action as the Lady Agilas move up to shake, rattle and roll at the Shakey’s V-League season 11 centerstage. Expect the rest of the teams to take notice. But then, these ladies are unfazed. They’re ready to tough it out. Viva Davao!!!
For more on the Shakey’s V-League tourney, you can read: She Booms, She Bangs at Shakey’s; Lady Eagles Claw Lady Falcons in Shakey’s V-League Opening; and Shakey’s Stars of the Future.
(All pics courtesy of Shakey’s V-League)