Youth has been the Ateneo-Motolite Lady Eagles’ advantage in the ongoing PVL Open Conference.
Although still adjusting to new head coach Oliver Almadro and integrating several rookies, the collegiate squad is on top of the standings with 7-2 record.
Brandishing height and supreme conditioning, the Lady Eagles have knocked off several club squads. Last night, Ateneo caught the biggest fish after escaping Reinforced Conference champions Creamline Cool Smashers.
The Lady Eagles held a 2-0 sets lead at one point, before the Cool Smashers rallied behind Ateneo standouts Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado to force a decider. With Creamline leaning on their four-time league Most Valuable Player captain in Valdez, Ateneo responded in the fifth set with gutsy floor defense and staunch blocking.
The match’s ending was a small sample of their overall quality, as Ateneo rookie Vanie Gandler stifled hometown hero Valdez at the net.
Creamline were not playing to their full strength, however, as starting middle blocker Pau Soriano was still recovering from an injury, opposite hitter Michele Gumabao had just come back from competing in Miss Globe, and Risa Sato competing with National University in the UniGames.
Almadro is already wary of the criticism his team will face. Though some may see the win as a fluke, the fiery head coach emphasizes the valuable experience his team absorbed from playing Creamline to the limit.
“If it’s a fluke, it’s okay with us. If it’s tsamba, we’ll take it. What’s important is natututo kami sa kanila,” said Almadro.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila it will not be given to us easy. We will really have to work hard for it. Just a point, a championship point, pinaghihirapan ‘yan. What more kung ang kalaban mo is a professional champion team?”
Just last week, with their depleted lineup, Creamline swept Ateneo – who were missing Maddie Madayag, Kat Tolentino and Ponggay Gaston – in their first round meeting.
Given how they were dragged to a fifth set, Almadro was quick to point out his team’s deficiencies.
“We’re two sets up so ‘yun ang importante sa amin, ‘yung mental toughness, ‘yung maturity.
“‘Yung ganoon, matututo kami doon eh, so pagbalik kailangan hindi kami magpabaya,” he closed.