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Valdez praises NU’s performance, looks forward to Game Three

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We were ushered into the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ locker room after the team’s straight sets loss to a rejuvenated NU Lady Bulldogs in Game Two of the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference Finals. As we entered the locker room, we witnessed Alyssa Valdez hugging her sobbing teammate, Jho Maraguinot.

“Babawi tayo, babawi tayo,” Alyssa repeatedly whispered to her fellow Batanguena.

If you were there to witness the spectacle, it would have been evident to you that Valdez meant every word she said. Her words were soothing, in an attempt to calm Maraguinot, whose tears were gushing non-stop from her eyes, but there was a seriousness to her tone that showed that her words were not empty.

As Maraguinot calmed down, Alyssa released her grip around her teammate. It took her a moment to steady herself, the first and only sign she gave of being affected by the loss. When she was ready, she approached us and flashed her contagious smile.

And just like that she was back to her usual bubbly self, ready for her routine interview after every game.

The most obvious difference from Ateneo’s Game One victory over NU, and their loss, was the presence of veteran Dindin Santiago-Manabat. Having sat out the first game due to participating in an international competition, Dindin powered her team to a game-high 13 points. But for Valdez, NU’s towering middle blocker, brings more to the table than just scoring.

“Dindin is really one of the best in the country. Presence pa lang it’s a big deal na. She knows how to maintain her team’s composure in the court pag nara-rattle.  She really helps their team. Not only sa points, she helped them through her maturity and experience. Yan yung crucial part na natulong ni Dindin.”

Dindin’s presence visibly helped her team. While NU looked uncertain in their first match without her, they seemed much more determined and decisive in Game Two. The Lady Bulldogs played as if synchronized with each other, diving after loose balls and giving the Lady Eagles fits defensively. Their focus on defense allowed Valdez to score just 9 points all game, just her second single digit outing since the start of the tournament. It wasn’t just Valdez who was affected, as her other teammates found it difficult to score as well.

Valdez’s praise didn’t just extend to Santiago-Manabat. She also mentioned how the combination of Bia General and Rubie De Leon kept NU’s offense and defense flowing smoothly.

“Magaling si ate Rubie. Hindi lang yon, extra excellent yung mga digs and service receives ni General. This led to them setting up good plays, which made it easier for them.”

With a week to prepare, Valdez is hoping that her team is ready for the pivotal Game Three. Ateneo has a tough task ahead of them, for NU is sure to be motivated with their win.

“NU gave us a good fight, they really fought really well today. They played extra motivated, extra inspired. I think we didn’t do our part as a team also. I hope we learn from this experience, and I hope we can correct our mistakes and be consistent. We’re hoping for a good game this coming Sunday, because for sure NU will give us a hell of a fight.”

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