The new-look defending champions Ateneo Lady Eagles remain an enigma for the rest of the UAAP.
Since the Season 76 Finals, the Lady Eagles have won 20 straight UAAP matches, including the first two of Season 78. However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Ladies from Loyola.
In their season debut, Ateneo trailed for most of the match against the National University Lady Bulldogs before finding their rhythm and taking the match. Against the University of Santo Tomas Tigresses Sunday afternoon, Ateneo’s service reception floundered even further but UST’s errors gave them enough of a boost to escape.
According to reigning MVP and team captain Alyssa Valdez, they had expected to struggle early in the season.
“It just shows that kailangan pa namin mag-adjust with the loss of our best receivers in Den (Lazaro) and Ella (De Jesus) tapos nawala din si Mich (Morente) who’s also a veteran,” Valdez said.
The graduating open hitter has had her share of struggles. In past seasons, Valdrz barely had to pass off serves with Lazaro and De Jesus flanking her. This season, servers have targeted her, making the three-time Best Scorer work harder than she ever has in the backrow throughout her career.
“It’s a good thing that this is only the second game. It’s still early enough for us to find our weaknesses and work on them in practice. It’s a long season pa naman,” Valdez explained.
Ateneo, however, make up for their lack of floor defense with their jacked-up offense. Every Lady Eagle boasts a deadly serve, and height is also ubiquitous in their roster, making blocking an ease.
Asked about the team’s 20-game winning streak, Valdez hadn’t even been aware that they had won so many matches in a row.
“We don’t think about it. Siguro subconsciously it gives us confidence but it doesn’t stop us from wanting to do better in practice and working hard in every game,” Valdez closed.
Ateneo next face the Far Eastern University Tamaraws on Wednesday, 4 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
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