On a hot Sunday afternoon, the scene was like a trip down the memory lane as former La Salle standout Abigail Maraño once again went head-to-head against current Ateneo superstar Alyssa Valdez. Although this time around, they are not donning the colors of their respective Alma Maters but rather the colors of their V-League teams.
Battling for the first time since the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball championship, Valdez, despite having a subpar game due to the opposition’s tight defense, once again got the best of Maraño as her PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Spikers ousted the Meralco Power Spikers in a five-set thriller, 25-23, 23-25, 19-25, 25-12, 15-11, at the San Juan Arena.
Despite PLDT clawing back at the game after a 1-2 deficit, Maraño’s net defense effectively contained Valdez. In the match, Maraño stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points and 4 blocks while Valdez has 23 points and 3 blocks.
Delving deeper, regardless of her 23 markers in the game, Valdez consistently had a hard time hitting. Thanks to Meralco’s swarming defense, she only managed to connect 19 out of her 50 attack attempts.
“Yun talaga ang focus namin, ‘yung dapat gandahan namin ang depensa namin,” Maraño added. “Kasi kung hindi madadala sa opensa ‘yung PLDT, kailangan nandoon ang depensa namin from block, from floor defense, kasi eventually mapapagod naman ang spikers. So sa volleyball naman hindi puro palo, kailangan mo rin patibayin ang depensa mo.”
“Ako naniniwala ako sa volleyball [working as a team]. Kahit gaano kalakas ang opensa ng isang player, kapag malakas ang depensa ng kalaban, mapapagod at mapapagod ka kasi talon ka ng talon. Ang depensa nakababa ka lang at inaabangan mo ang bola di ba? Magsasawa ka din sa pumalo since malakas ang depensa. Parang maiisip mo, anong gagawin ko makapuntos ako dito? Siguro sa game na-work namin iyon.”
In addition, Meralco may have lost the game but Maraño indicated that this thriller clearly uplifted the team’s morale and confidence.
“Ito ang toughest [game namin] so far plus maganda ‘yung naging team work namin. We fell short nung latter part kasi medyo kinapos sa panapos pero sa dugout ang ganda ng talk namin,” Maraño said. “Wala pa rin sa team namin ‘yung sobrang down at hindi masyadong bumaba ang morale dahil natalo kami sa PLDT. For us, maganda ‘yung laro namin at parang napatunayan namin sa sarili namin na kaya pala namin yung PLDT kasi di ba? They are composed of superstars in volleyball. Pero bilog ang bola and at least nakakuha kami ng [two sets] sa kanila.”
And of course, Maraño had extra motivation in the game since she was facing the same player who dethroned her team that was seeking a rare four-peat during their college days. Although she made an impact this game, Maraño said that some wounds from their championship setback are yet to be healed. But with help and advice from her friends, she eventually felt better as her friends told her to move on from the haunting memory and just face whatever the consequences are.
“Sinasabi ko nga kay Ate Cha [Cruz] pagdating sa dugout: ok lang yan, volleyball lang yan, laro pa rin ito. Iyon ang natutunan ko from my championship game last Season 76. Kinausap ko si Ate Cha na parang last UAAP nadepress ako kasi maski nagtatrabaho na ako, hindi pa rin ako naka move on,” Maraño shared. “Ito rin talaga ang natutunan ko kay Robert [Bolick]: laro lang iyan, hindi yan ikasisira ng buhay mo. Pwede ka bumagon. Kanina ganon pa rin, nandoon na ‘yung attitude ko na tanggap ko na ang pagkatalo. Natanggap ko na rin kung paano maka-adjust sa pagkatalo.”