As the smoke of battle cleared the air in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball hostilities, the blue shadow of a soaring eagle straddled the field oh-so dominantly. Just a year removed from a Cinderella finish that many felt was a huge upset, Ateneo’s Lady Eagles stamped their class emphatically this time and finished the tournament with nary a scratch. The Archers couldn’t nick them, the Bulldogs couldn’t bite, the Tams couldn’t gore, and the rest simply just couldn’t.
Ateneo was unmistakeably head and shoulders above the rest. La Salle’s Lady Spikers, grizzled ex-titlists that they were, were expected to crowd the Lady Eagles for the title. But their dream of regaining that coveted crown was shattered when their MVP candidate and team captain, Ara Galang, fell injured in the last few minutes of their face-off game against the NU Lady Bulldogs. That crucial step-ladder game was for the right to meet the Lady Eagles in the prestigious finals. And as she lay grimacing like Humpty Dumpty after that great fall, the fans in green could only groan as they watched their quest for the crown slowly fading away. For now, ‘all the king’s archers and all the king’s men, couldn’t put the crown together again’.
It was all over. Even before the first ball was served in the finals’ first game. The Lady Eagles would steamroller their way to a 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 straight-sets victory. I’d like to give credit to the Lady Spikers for giving everything they had despite Ara’s absence. They certainly didn’t want to make it another ho-hum picnic for Ateneo. But their best would not be enough against these beasts. And La Salle would suffer still another crushing blow when reserve spiker Camille Cruz came crashing down with another knee injury. Again, new adjustments had to be made, and a new chemistry had to be tried out.
The final game was a mercy killing procedure. Ateneo would take a seemingly closer 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 straight-sets win. La Salle, egged on by a green faithful that refused to say die, would try their darndest best. But the Lady Eagles were now soaring at a far higher plane. The Lady Eagles made the match look competitive, but it was obvious they could lower the boom anytime they wished.
To our tournament MVP, the amazing Alyssa Valdez, well done! To our silently effective Finals MVP, Amy Ahomiro, great show, mate. To our graduating heroines, Denden, Ella and Aerial, congratulations and good luck on your new frontiers ahead. Take a bow, Bea, Mitch, and Kim. Ditto for the rest of squad.
But I’d like to pay special tribute to my new idol, the cerebral Jia Morado. She with the uncanny court vision, the perfect sets and the precisely-placed dinky-drops. As a point guard during my younger days, I had always marveled at the unselfish ways of the likes of John Stockton, Magic Johnson and the other guys who made a living making others look good. Jia, you are the epitome of the point guard in women’s volleyball. Mighty proud of you. Stay cool, stay sweet.
But my greatest accolades will have to go to that pleasantly-animated Thai voodoo expert, Coach Tai Bundit. Coach Tai was the exorcist who transformed these meek mortals into volleyball beasts; from cute darling babies to ruthless assassins. In a span of one year, Coach Tai was able to transform his team from being merely strong and competitive into one that was downright dominating. And he did it not just by teaching them about the game. He did it by teaching the team to believe in themselves, to believe they could win, to believe they could fly. To Coach Tai, our admiration and our warmest congratulations. Know that you have not only helped Ateneo in its campaign to win the crown, you have certainly improved the country’s standards in women’s volleyball; and in so doing, have captivated our hearts.
After all is said and done, the Ateneo Lady Eagles have not just delivered, they have majestically upped the limits in their flight to glory. New standards of excellence have been set. New training methodologies, new levels of mental toughness, new attitudes. The game has transcended beyond the physical play. And if the opposition remains complacent amid the drastic changes in competitive standards, we will see these beastly beauties forging a dynasty for the years and possibly decades ahead. Yeah, these beauties? They are simply the best!!!
As they say: magagaling na, magaganda pa! Ateneo Lady Eagles, you rock!!!
Here’s to you, ladies.
(You can sing the song while you browse the pics with the music on. Simply put on the music and click the pic.)
(Audio courtesy of youtube, photos courtesy of KC Cruz, Jamil Buergo, Ryan Racca, Richard Esguerra, Arvin Lim, gma network, abs-cbn, spin.ph, dzrhnews, pinoy exchange, remate, abante, rappler, pba online,forthephenom.tumblr.com, pinstake.com )