If the University of Perpetual Help System DATA Lady Altas were the Cinderellas of the NCAA Season 94 Women’s Volleyball Tournament, this story ends not with Cinderella triumphing, but with the Queen retaining her throne.
Reigning, two-time champions Arellano University Lady Chiefs refused to be the antagonists in another team’s fairytale, extending their dynasty with a convincing win in Game Three.
The final match of the series was the least exciting score-wise, but it was symbolic of how the champions finally figured out their plucky opponents.
Game One was a bloodbath in which the Lady Chiefs drowned. The then two-time defending champs suffered a sobering loss from the Lady Altas, who were hot off taking down the top-seeded College of Saint Benilde.
The following match was nearly the end of the Arellano dynasty. But the champions found just enough of their groove to dispel the Lady Chiefs in five sets.
Arellano’s firepower was then simply too much for Perpetual in Game Three. Although the Lady Altas had a signature comeback in the opening set, it ended up as one of their few highlights in a match that saw more of their errors.
The Lady Chiefs were unrelenting from the second set onward. After all, Season 94 was their championship to lose.
“Sabi namin na, binibigay na sa atin eh, ito na. Kunin na natin,” thought back-to-back Finals MVP Regine Arocha, who tallied 16 points in Game Three.
“Tapos noong nakakalamang na po kami, katulad po ng sinabi ng mga coaches sa meeting, ‘Kapag nakita niyo nang nakadapa, ‘wag niyo ng patayuin pa. Tapakan niyo pa para hindi na makabangon pa.’
“Parang sabi po namin, ayaw ng lumaban ng Perpetual. Siyempre po yung key player nila, si (Cindy) Imbo, naba-block na rin po, napipigilan na rin po siya kanina. Parang sabi namin, i-grab na po namin ‘yung opportunity na hindi na po sila lumalaban,” added Regular Season MVP Necole Ebuen, who provided 11 markers.
“‘Magtuloy-tuloy lang tayo, tayo ang mananalo’, sabi po namin kanina. Lumaban po kami.”
What could be mistaken for brashness was Arellano’s confidence in the work they put in to get into the Finals. The Lady Chiefs had a subpar run in the elimination round, though they finished with an 8-1 record.
Arellano head coach Obet Javier always knew his team just needed a push to show their peak form.
“Bakit mo pa kailangan pahirapan ‘yung sarili mo, kung kaya mo naman? Kumbaga, ‘yung mga pagkakataon, andoon na. Siguro talagang ‘yung team ko, gusto nila laging tine-test eh. Buti na lang, sa bandang huli, pumapasa naman kami sa test na ‘yun,” he said.
Having won four of the last five NCAA titles, Javier knows the comparisons to their UAAP counterparts are inevitable.
He concedes that the UAAP is the more competitive league – for now.
“Kumbaga, kung ‘yun ang tingin nila, mas malakas sila sa amin. Kami hindi naman ganoon ka… Kami, maaring kami ang malakas dito sa ngayon, sa tournament na ito. Okay lang, magkaiba naman,” said the decorated tactician.
“Pero darating din ‘yung time na hahabulin din namin sila. Pero maganda ‘yun kasi siyempre alam naman natin na ang UAAP, sila ang sinasabi na pinakamataas na liga. So mas maganda ‘yun kung makukuha namin ‘yung challenge.”