MANILA, Philippines – It’s the dream finals, as UAAP fans proudly call it.
Banners in blue and green flocked to the Big Dome on a rainy Tuesday afternoon just to cheer on their respective teams for the 6th consecutive year of the fabled Ateneo-La Salle rivalry.
The Ateneo Lady Eagles ceased the preliminaries with a league-best record, snatching two against archrivals De Salle University Lady Spikers. But as they say, the championship round is always a different story as all numbers move back to zero.
With the top two teams locking horns for the title, it would eventually boil down to mental toughness come game day.
“Siguro kasi since finals, the mental game is a lot tougher,” said Ateneo’s Bea de Leon. “[Also] Kim Fajardo’s serve was really, really good.”
“It’s been like that ever since [Fajardo’s serve], talagang bumabagsak siya (it really falls down). It’s really hard to read also.”
The Taft crew’s veteran setter brought championship experience and leadership on Tuesday, at the same time delivered 7 of La Salle’s 11 aces in a game where the top two teams in the service department had their fair share of reception errors.
What’s important to note, however, was how the leading offensive squad got limited to only 38 excellent attacks as compared to the Lady Spikers’ 51. According to De Leon, it all started with Ateneo’s shaky defense in the succeeding sets.
“The defense was a bit shaky. Defense in totality was low for us today, hence, the lesser outcome in attacks.”
The Katipunan squad’s middle blocker further noted that the loss cannot be attributed to “bad calls” or a new game plan from the other side, as she believed it all came down to the team’s errors.
“It definitely came down to our errors. It was on us.”
“You’ll never be able to blame it solely on poor calls,” De Leon said of the few critical officiating decisions in Game 1. “ It’s a test of character when it comes to that. With ‘bad calls,’ as coach would always tell us, it’s irreversible, practically. So why bother diba? Bawi nalang (we’ll just recover).”
While the reigning titlist La Salle hopes to wrap it up on Saturday, the Lady Eagles remain optimistic of a Game 2 recovery victory.
With their backs against the wall this time around, Ateneo aims to go all out.
“It’s still very hopeful [the team atmosphere]. It’s not over, it’s just Game 1. We’ll come back, work a lot harder,” the middle blocker conveyed on a positive note. “I think it’s just the minor details that we have to work on.”
With head coach Tai Bundit guiding them from the sidelines, the Lady Eagles, as always, intend to go by their famed mantra.
“The mantra of this team is Heartstrong. We’ll live up to that name,” she closed.－Rappler.com
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