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The Final Act of Valdez: Ateneo-La Salle Episode V

For the fifth straight year, collegiate volleyball fans will be treated to another colossal championship series between the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles and the De La Salle University Lady Spikers. Moreover, these last two weeks of the 78th Season of the UAAP will also be the last time the world will see Alyssa Valdez don the fabled Lady Eagles’ jersey number 2.

And what a way for her to close out her UAAP career: with a Finals rematch against her school’s rivals.

“It’s really a long journey for both teams and we’re really happy, for us na graduating, we’re ending it together di ba?” Valdez shared. “And no matter what happens, what outcome, (or) kung ano man ang mangyari, I think it’s going to be a memorable UAAP Season 78 for everyone.”

During her five years with the Blue and White, Valdez and the Lady Eagles have compiled a record of 58-12 in the elimination round and 11- 5 in the post-season that led to two championships. Against La Salle, however, the Lady Eagles are 9-12  – including a 4-0 sweep of the Lady Spikers last season that led to their immaculate 16-0 run.

Having exclusively faced La Salle in all of her UAAP championship matches since suiting up for Ateneo back in 2011, Valdez is determined not to be swayed by the gravity and nostalgic tendencies of the “Last Dance”.

“The pressure will always be there. Even if we’re not in the finals, nandoon pa rin ang pressure,” Valdez followed. “Ngayon, kahit naman nakatingin sa akin ‘yung mga tao, may teammates ako na tumutulong sa akin and they’re really contributing sa team.”

UAAP-78-Volleyball-ADMU-vs.-DLSU-Valdez-x-Lady-Eagles The Final Act of Valdez: Ateneo-La Salle Episode V ADMU News UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“The smallest things ginagawa nila and it’s not really me kasi, I mean, lahat talaga kami we have to play together as one team and be happy inside the court.”

Comparing last season’s La Salle squad to this season’s roster, Valdez noted that the stellar play of Ara Galang, and the overall depth of the Lady Spikers will give Ateneo fits if they don’t play to their strengths.

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“Since Season 74 kami nagstart (facing each other in the Finals) di ba? Ara Galang will always be Ara Galang, (pero) kahit na wala siya, La Salle will always be La Salle. I mean, mayroon silang good system, mayroon silang sobrang reliable (teammates) from their first to 14th player,” Valdez stressed.

UAAP-78-Volleyball-ADMU-vs.-DLSU-Galang-4722-1 The Final Act of Valdez: Ateneo-La Salle Episode V ADMU News UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“We cannot be complacent kahit sino pang ipasok nila di ba? Si Ara naman she’ll always (be) going to deliver and siguro ngayon, siya ang heart and soul of the team, siya ay isang veteran. Even Kim (Fajardo), Mika (Reyes), and Cyd (Demecillo), sila talaga (ang veterans din). It’s anybody’s ballgame talaga, we can’t say talaga.”

With Ateneo and La Salle at 2-2 — the Lady Spikers won the UAAP gold in Seasons 74 and 75, while the Lady Eagles bagged the last two — the Queen Eagle likened this series to a deciding fifth set. “Para itong five setter and 2-2 pa (after we’ve faced each other), so oh my god. What a way to end it, what a way na during our last year pa,” Valdez remarked. “It’s going to be exciting, no one will just give up [that easily], and I think all of us we’ll be giving our (strongest display) of heart.”

Now, with their upcoming Finals rematch looming, all that Valdez and the Lady Eagles want is to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning their third straight title. She wants it to be a collective team effort and play it the “Ateneo way”.

“Ganoon naman talaga, that’s the goal, but I guess the ultimate goal of our team is to be happy and deliver whatever our coaches naman wil say di ba? Iyon naman ang ultimate goal. (Dapat) maging masaya kami when we go out of the court and we’re never going to say ‘sayang,’ we’re never going to be sad, and we’re going to help each other.”

As their mantra says: happy, unity, heartstrong.

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