By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE suddenly streaking Ateneo Lady Eagles trek back to University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 action today, eyeing a fifth straight win and fortifying their place for a top two finish in the women’s volleyball tournament.
Currently at second place with an 8-3 record, and undefeated so far in the second round of the eliminations, Ateneo faces off with the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses (4-7) in the 2 p.m. match at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Also playing today are the National University Lady Bulldogs (6-5) who are taking on the University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons (3-8) at 4 p.m.
The Lady Eagles enter the contest fresh from their gutsy five-set win over the Adamson Lady Falcons on March 25 before the UAAP went on a break for Holy Week.
Ateneo dug deep to survive the back and forth between the two teams, proving to have just enough to outlast Adamson in the end.
Jhoana Maraguinot led with 23 points for Ateneo, which has not lost since bowing to league-leading De La Salle University in its last game of the first round of the elimination phase.
Kat Tolentino finished with 17 points with Jules Samonte and Bea De Leon adding 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the win.
Ateneo setter Deanna Wong had a career-high 60 excellent sets to go along with six points.
“It was a team effort. It really all boils down to character and what coach Tai (Bundit) always says on ‘Heartstrong,’” said Wong, named player of the game, following their win.
“We trust and encourage each other. No matter what happens we just play our best and let everything else follow,” she added as she spoke of what has been doing it for them of late.
Meanwhile, out to halt Ateneo while giving its cause a late-tournament push is UST, winner of its last two games.
The Tigresses played solidly in their last assignment, adding to the woes of erstwhile league-leading NU with a four-set win also on March 25.
Went a set down early, the Tigresses showed the composure and determination needed as the game progressed, while stepping up their defense as well, to win back-to-back games that has them still in contention in the Final Four race.
Sisi Rondina led the way for UST with 25 points, 22 off spikes, with Milena Alessandrini adding 19.
Caitlin Viray, meanwhile, finished with eight points and Alina Bicar seven.
“We are dealing with what is in our hands right now. What happened in the first round is over and done with. We cannot do anything about it anymore. So we are focusing on our remaining games and we will work hard in them,” said UST coach Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes of their mind-set moving forward in Season 80.
“It remains to be seen if it we will go to the next round but we will continue to fight to have a positive ending to our season,” he added.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo