Playing without two of their regular starters and with one of their blue chip recruits sitting out after an injury during warm-ups, the Ateneo Lady Eagles received a stellar effort from the regularly benched Jhoanna Maraguinot and took care of the UST Golden Tigresses in four sets, 25-11, 27-25, 19-25, 25-20 in the opening match of the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.
Once a reserve on Ateneo’s Team B, Maraguinot exploded for a game-high 23 points and fully displayed her ever-expanding offensive game as she showed off powerful back row attacks throughout the match. Amy Ahomiro, who stepped in for the resting Alyssa Valdez, paced the Ateneo attack with 14 points while Bea De Leon contributed 12 markers. Also out of the lineup for the defending UAAP champs were setter, Jia Morado, who was nursing a knee injury, and guest player Kat Tolentino who sprained her right knee during the pregame warm-ups. Seldom-used, backup setter, Gizelle Tan filled-in tremendously for the Lady Eagles as her energetic jump setting produced 23 excellent sets.
The Lady Eagles pounced on the jittery Tigers in the match’s opening set. Razor sharp right from the first point, the Lady Eagles had no problems taking the first set as the Tigresses gave away error after error. The Tigresses only really got into the game in the following set, forging a two-point barrier that the Lady Eagles struggled to take down until they broke through late in that set. The Thomasians last held a two-point lead at 18-16 after a Maraguinot attack error. From there, the Ateneans slowly whittled away at the lead, first forcing a tie at 18 after consecutive attacks from Maraguinot, then took their first lead of the set at 22-21 when Maraguinot fired a missile from the back row. A Bea De Leon ace put Ateneo at match point first, 24-23, but the Thomasians quickly responded with a Ria Meneses thundering quick play. Risa Sato and Ej Laure traded kills and tied the set 25, at which point Ateneo took the set with an Amy Ahomiro quick play followed by an Ej Laure attack error.
Fighting off a sudden letdown and a sweep, the Tigresses compounded on their momentum from the second set and performed valiantly in the third frame. The Lady Eagles sniffed the lead last at 5-4 as the Thomasians suddenly took control, winning 13 of the next 16 points, and forged their largest lead of the game, 16-7. With the set well in hand as they led 24-14, the Tigresses averted a disaster with Ateneo putting up a last ditch comeback effort, rattling off five consecutive points. UST needed a timeout to setup a proper play which Ej Laure completed easily and sent the match into a fourth set.
With UST’s veterans reeling from fatigue, the Thomasians failed to muster another game-saving effort and petered out as the fourth set closed. Returning team captain, Pam Lastimosa topped the Tigresses with 14 points, incoming sophomore, Ej Laure followed with 13 markers while veteran Mela Tunay dished out 11 points.
“Naka-tsamba lang kami,” expressed acting Ateneo head coach, Parley Tupaz. “Wala si Alyssa, Jia, pati si Kat, nanalo pa kami sa UST na puro veteran. Buti na lang maganda ‘yung nilaro nila Jhoana at nila Amy.”
When asked when Alyssa Valdez would play, Tupaz was unsure of her status, stating that the UAAP MVP might sit out one month or maybe even the entire tournament.
The Lady Eagles will face the SSBC-R Lady Stags next on July 19 while the Tigresses will look to earn their first win when they collide with the DLSU-Dasma Lady Spikers on July 18.
Ateneo (3) – Marguinot 23, Ahomiro 14, De Leon 12, Sato 9, Gequillana 7, Madayag 2, Tan 1, De Jesus (L)
UST (1) – Lastimosa 14, Laure 13, Tunay 11, Meneses 4, Francisco 4, Dizon 3, Cortez 0, De Leon 0, Cabanos 0, Hachero (L), Rasmo (L)