Alyssa Valdez's performance for the ages keeps Ateneo alive
MANILA, Philippines – Alyssa Valdez stood in the middle of the Mall of Asia Arena playing court with a bouquet of flowers on her right hand, and a golden trophy on her left. After smiling and posing for photos, the 3-time UAAP MVP held the microphone and gave a speech worthy of her coronation: thanking her teammates, coaches, and the volleyball community regardless of school loyalty.
A few hours later, the graduating superstar gave the performance of a lifetime - one that was more than worthy of her award.
With 34 points from one devastating spike after another, Valdez rallied the Ateneo Lady Eagles past a 0-2 deficit against the DLSU Lady Spikers to win Game 2 and force a deciding Game 3 for the UAAP women’s volleyball finals.
Let’s get this straight now: Ateneo looked done. La Salle fans at the arena could smell blood in the water after that second-set win. A championship celebration was expected.
But it wouldn’t happen. Not on this day.
“I think super bait lang ni Lord na binigyan niya kami nang chance para makapanalo pa ulit, so hindi pa tapos. So let’s see each other on Saturday (Game 3),” she said post game.
(I think God is really kind because He gave us the chance to win again, so it isn’t over yet.)
Ateneo dominated set 3 from the get-go, going ahead early and holding on the rest of the way. Then they took control of set 4 as well, awakening a Lady Eagles crowd which was just waiting for the right moment to explode.
Then in the fifth set, it was like watching a movie unfold. The hero of the story rallying her troops from the ashes of defeat, slugging for a chance to stay alive; to keep what’s theirs.
Alyssa Valdez with another huge score, 21-18 ADMU leads as they call timeout in set two pic.twitter.com/fvwpU81rEq— Rappler Sports (@RapplerSports) April 27, 2016
After the two teams exchanged kills to open the action, Ateneo took control by riding the shoulders of its MVP. Valdez, who was also named the Best Scorer of the season, fought fatigue and put her athletic prowess on display time and time again, slapping the volleyball with authority for point after point.
It seemed contagious, because other Ateneo players started to look unstoppable as well. From the highest of highs, La Salle ended the night at the lowest of lows.
Best Receiver and Digger Dawn Macandili had no answer. Neither did the rest of her teammates. And in the blink of an eye, what was supposed to be a festivity for the Lady Spikers’ rise back to the top following a two-year absence turned into a party of blue and white.
“Coach Tai will always say na kahit lamang na nang two sets ang kalaban (even if the opponent is up by two sets), he’ll just say 0-0. It’s true naman. Entering naman a new set, it’s definitely 0-0,” Valdez said about the team’s mentality when their situation looked most dire.
Valdez was the unstoppable star of the game, but other Lady Eagles more than stepped up to the plate as well.
Jia Morado, who had a sprained arm/wrist in Game 1, finished with 70 excellent sets to Best Setter Kim Fajardo’s 63. Jhoana Maraguinot had 15 points. Bea De Leon scored 12. Amy Ahomiro, with 9, had timely scores. Ateneo connected on 63 spikes.
Those sneaky La Salle drops and powerful cross-court kills that it feasted on in the early goings? Denied time and time again late in the game and that was thanks to a team effort on defense. The Lady Eagles maintained the stage for the comeback to remember, which was opened and closed by their MVP.
The league’s MVP.
“You’ll admire naman talaga these kids, this young generation, kasi even with great pressure, even with great responsibility, they will perform eh no matter what,” said Valdez, who laughed at the fact that she’s now the older leader of the team after being one of the younger stars from years ago.
“I really admire my teammates and I couldn’t ask for more,” she later added.
How much does she exactly admire them? She put it into words, and when you hear the sentences, you get a sense of why she’s a leader the Lady Eagles have no hesitations to follow:
“Sasabihin ko lang na (I’ll just say that) individual awards, it will not matter at the end of the day. It’s really the end-goal of the team.
“But each and every one in my team… if given a chance, bibigyan ko talaga kayo individually nang award, kasi (I’ll give them awards because) if you’re really going to see them in training, they’re the ones who’s gonna do so much effort, sacrifices, and they don’t ask for anything, but just play.”
Both teams enter Game 3 with everything on the line. Statistics and previous battles go out the window when the two rivals face for all the marbles in their fifth consecutive finals. As Valdez pointed out, “Mind over matter na ‘to. Kahit masakit. Kahit ano meron, diba lalaban ka lang.”
(It’s mind over matter. Even if it hurts. Whatever we have, we’re going to fight.)
It will be the final game of her illustrious UAAP career, and the same goes for Ahomiro, Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, and others. La Salle has championship experience and enough fortitude to erase Game 2 from its mind to come back to win Game 3. A classic conclusion is sure to ensue.
“At the end of the day, at the end of tonight, it’s not yet the end of UAAP diba (right)? So we’ll see each other on Saturday. So we’ll really have to go back and train and prepare mentally and physically,” said Valdez.
After the Lady Eagles sealed their win in Game 2, Valdez entered the press room and uttered these words first about the comeback:
“Ma mi-miss niyo daw kasi kami eh.”
(Because you’re going to miss us.)
La Salle most definitely won’t. Game 3 awaits. – Rappler.com