The Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles needed all of their vaunted power game to quell the emotional University of the East Lady Warriors, 25-20, 27-25, 25-11, to clinch the first seed in the UAAP Season 81 Final Four at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Ateneo finish the elimination round with a 12-2 record. They sealed a twice-to-beat advantage and match-up with fourth seed Far Eastern University in the Final Four.
UE bid farewell to program pillars Kath Arado, Judith Abil, Lai Bendong, Roselle Baliton, and Jasmine Alcayde, all of whom have exhausted their UAAP playing eligibility. UE finished the season with a 3-11 record, their best performance since 2012.
The Lady Eagles broke away from a tight first set, going on a 6-1 run to vault ahead of UE. The Lady Warriors then seemed to have the second set in hand after Judith Abil pushed them ahead, 24-21. From there, Abil lost momentum, giving up errors and powering Ateneo’s finishing 6-1 blast.
Ateneo clinched the win long before the third set’s final whistle after taking a massive 18-5 lead.
Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro knows the intensity will ramp up once the Final Four starts, and wants to keep his players on their toes.
“Ito na yung simula ng totoong labanan. This is the real UAAP, the playoffs,” said Almadro.
“Of course, we cannot count out yung mga nasa five, six, seven, eight. They really pushed us up. I was just telling UE na they’re a really good team. They’re equally good with FEU, UP, Adamson, NU, they really just pushed us up,” he added.
Kat Tolentino led the Lady Eagles with 11 points, while Maddie Madayag added 11 markers off seven attacks, three blocks, and an ace.
Arado, the frontrunner for Best Libero this year, tallied 28 digs and 12 excellent receptions in her final match as a Lady Warrior. Abil managed 11 points and 13 excellent receptions.
Baliton added six markers, while Bendong tossed nine excellent sets as she continues to top the Best Setter race.
ADMU (3) – Tolentino 11, Madayag 10, Gaston 9, De Leon 8, Samonte 8, Gandler 1, Gequillana C. 1, Maraguinot 1, Raagas 1, Wong 1, Gequillana K. (L), Ravena (L)
UE (0) – Mendrez 12, Abil 11, Baliton 6, Gabarda 3, Olarve 2, Bendong 1, Rodriguez 1, Alcayde 0, Babol 0, Arado (L)