In her fifth and final year, Alyssa Valdez again towed her Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles to the UAAP Finals, eliminating the University of the Philippine Lady Maroons 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 at the SM MoA Arena.
The Lady Eagles played tough defense to open the match, stifling UP’s advances. Jhoana Maraguinot drove in two smashes that gave the Lady Eagles an 18-12 lead. Veteran open hitter Nicole Tiamzon tried to keep UP in the running, scoring thrice-in-a-row then getting a boost from a Kathy Bersola ace to get within three, 19-22. But the Lady Eagles closed the set out marvelously after a timeout, nailing the next three points highlighted by an Alyssa Valdez smash.
With their massive crowd egging them on, UP rallied to a 6-all tie in the second frame but that was all they had. Ateneo responded immediately with a 5-0 run then firing off three straight points for a 14-7 lead. Out of timeouts, the Lady Maroons could not regain their composure, conceding numerous free balls which led to an insurmountable 23-15 lead.
UP looked dead in the water as Ateneo took a 16-10 lead into the second technical timeout of the third set. The Lady Maroons finally fought back, trimming Ateneo’s lead down to one, 18-19. That was when Alyssa Valdez took over. She scored the next two points, forcing a UP timeout. Valdez then capped UP’s season with devastating hits. She wound up scoring five of Ateneo’s last six points.
“I feel very blessed to be back in the Finals for a fifth year. Now it’s time to prepare for the Finals. Hopefully, we can get another championship,” said Valdez.
Valdez managed 16 points while Maraguinot tallied 17 off 10 attacks, three blocks, and four aces.
Tiamzon led the Lady Maroons with 13 points and was the only one in double-digits. Along with Tiamzon, Kathy Bersola and Princess Gaiser still have one playing year left but UP players traditionally do not play their fifth year.
The Lady Eagles will face the winner of the DLSU-FEU series where La Salle holds a twice-to-beat advantage. Ateneo swept the season series against FEU while splitting against La Salle.
ADMU (3) – Maraguinot 17, Valdez 16, Ahomiro 9, De Leon 8, Morado 3, Gequillana 3, Tan L.
UP (0) – Tiamzon 13, Bersola 8, Carlos 6, Molde 4, Buitre 2, Dorog 2,Lai 1, Basarte 0, Chopitea 0, Alinas 0, Estraneo L, Gaiser L.