Reaction: Lady Eagles clinch seventh Finals berth in eight years

The FEU Lady Tamaraws gave everything that the Ateneo Lady Eagles could handle for three sets. However, everything faltered for them as the two-time UAAP champions clinched a date with the UST Golden Tigresses for the Season 81 title. The Katipunan crew are back in the hunt after they were eliminated by the Lady Tamaraws last year.

Playing to their strengths

The Lady Eagles’ open hitters struggled in the fifth set of their first match. This time, it was opposite hitter Kat Tolentino and middle blockers Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag who were delivering the points until the end. Tolentino was on fire in the fourth especially when they mounted a 13-4 advantage that FEU couldn’t overhaul.

Ponggay Gaston played better today by scoring 12 points. But she needed 43 attempts to collect ten successful attacks. While she did score occasionally, an efficiency rate of less than 25% would not cut it in the Finals. It could be one of the reasons why FEU was always in striking distance from sets one to three.

The Ateneo women’s volleyball team is an outlier going into the Finals. Usually, the strongest point of attack would come from the open hitters. But the Lady Eagles get most of their points from middle with Madayag and De Leon. Those quick attempts and running attacks could be an advantage for the Lady Eagles especially because UST was sixth in blocking after the eliminations.

The seniors made the difference for FEU

The Lady Tamaraws will miss Kyle Negrito, Heather Guino-o, and Jerrili Malabanan given the way they played in their final UAAP game. Negrito induced pressure upon the Lady Eagles in set two with her strong service game and logical playmaking. Her command of the FEU offense allowed her squad to outscore Ateneo while she was playing.

Meanwhile, Guino-o is a dependable attacker that will not beat you with power. Rather, she has the ability to read the opposing team’s defense and make the rightful attempt for a kill. She will overwhelm you with on-court smarts and not by force. That was in display in the 12 attack points she made in her final time as a Lady Tamaraw.

Finally, Malabanan did not want to end her FEU playing days just yet. She was a huge factor in the Lady Tamaraws’ come-from-behind Set Two victory. The captain led her troops in this battle with 18 points. Unfortunately, it was not enough to get them over the hump.

Coach Almadro keeps on winning

He led the Blue Spikers to three-straight UAAP men’s volleyball titles. Now, he has a chance to bring the women’s championship back to Ateneo in his first season as head coach.

Coach Oliver Almadro said it best during the post-game interview: much attention is given to the small details when it comes to women’s volleyball. No wonder he is constantly shouting marching orders from the sideline to point out player’s mistakes immediately.

The faith he imparted upon his players led them to hope that they can return the title to their fold. They made certain of it by being courageous in the last match against the Lady Tamaraws.

But there’s still one more hurdle to climb or Almadro and the Ateneo Lady Eagles. They’ve come this far. Certainly, Coach O and his troops would want to cap the season with a crown.