Jia Morado’s importance to the Ateneo Lady Eagles
MANILA, Philippines – After round one of the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament, Ateneo Lady Eagles setter Jia Morado was second in the league leaderboard with 158 running sets and an average of 7.2 by set, trailing only La Salle’s Kim Fajardo (188, 8.2).
In 3 games since, she’s recorded 27 excellent sets against UP, 33 against NU, and most recently, 37 against FEU, the latter two being victories. That’s already more than double her output in Ateneo’s first 7 games, with 4 more contests to go before the elimination round concludes.
The strong play of the 20-year-old volleyball player, who was named UAAP Best Setter last year, has been integral to the 8-2 record of the league-leading Lady Eagles. They will surely need Morado to continue her excellent performance in order to win a third straight UAAP title, especially with improved competition across the board..
“Jia, she’s a veteran as well in a way, so she knows what she’s doing. Because of that, our roles as spikers become easier,” said reigning UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez in Tagalog after the dominant 3-set victory over the Lady Tamaraws on Sunday, March13.
It was just recently that Ateneo lost consecutive games to La Salle and UP after winning 24 straight and going undefeated for nearly two years. But the Lady Eagles won their next two games via straight sets, and the improved performance of Morado is no coincidence.
“I think there’s more teamwork inside the court and, of course, we lost two games but we learned from our losses,” Morado told Rappler. “Whatever we gained from that, we made our team even more whole so we help each other out more on the court.”
“Jia’s really talented,” Valdez said. “She’s really playing using her mind… she’s also very confident with her spikers, so that’s how her delivery is. She’s also maturing.
“I think she knows us as players [and] she knows herself. That’s the most important thing, and it’s just going to flow.”
If there was any doubt creeping in the Lady Eagles following their two-game skid, it’s slowly being erased after looking unstoppable again in their last 6 sets against Final Four-caliber teams. The improved trust in one another is a key reason why.
Not that the Ateneans didn’t trust each other prior - especially since it did start Season 78 with 6 straight wins - but there’s even more belief within the team now, which has translated to a better showing on the floor.
“Yeah, of course. There’s more trust and there’s also more confidence in ourselves and each other,” Morado said.
“As a team sport, that’s what you need - trusting each other,” explained Valdez, who’s scored 59 points in her last 3 performances.
“We’re really working on that, and we’re really trying to be there for each other no matter what, and Jia, she’s such a patient setter. You won’t see her complain when there’s a missed receive.”
That trust is going to have to hold firm furthermore, particularly with the Lady Eagles losing reliable middle blocker Maddie Madayag to an ACL injury she suffered during practice that will keep her out the rest of the season.
While replacing the hobbled second-year player is no small feat, the Lady Eagles do still have arguably the best UAAP player in Valdez, plus a rising star in Jhoana Maraguinot to lessen the burden.
And, of course, they also have a setter they trust to put them in situations to convert kills on the opposition.
“Yeah, I think so. I hope so,” said a laughing Morado when asked if she feels her teammates trust her even more now. “We really made it a point to start from the first ball, the second ball, and the third. We don’t want our efforts for each other to go to waste.”
“She always finds a way, because she can trust that when she sets the ball, we’ll spike it,” said Valdez, affirming that belief in her setter. “And we also trust Jia that she’ll set the ball for the team to get the point.” – Rappler.com