MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Lady Eagles defeated the Adamson Lady Falcons in three sets last Saturday at the MOA Arena — 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 — to go 5-0 for the season. If you pull up and look at the table at an almost immaculate slate (they dropped only one set so far and that was to the UST Golden Tigresses), they look imperious.
That doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. They lost two vital cogs in Denden Lazaro and Ella De Jesus and integrated two key replacements in Maddie Madayag and Jamie Lavitoria while looking to bring up another young weapon in Ponggay Gaston. Lavitoria only began starting the last two matches after Gizelle Tan somewhat struggled. The Lady Eagles have been tested and so far have risen to the challenge and there are things to take away even from their last match.
What doesn’t hurt you makes you stronger
The Lady Falcons stayed in step with the Lady Eagles for almost the entire second set before they wilted. Ateneo finally put them away then the third set.
During Ateneo’s season opener against NU, they were seemingly on the ropes in the first two sets before they turned the tables around and completed the three-set sweep. They looked good in their first two sets against UST after which the Golden Tigresses made a match of it by taking the third set. In that fourth set, it wasn’t even close.
It’s one thing to have practice games and another to gain that valuable experience in real matches. You could see the Lady Eagles as a work in progress in their first few matches as they moved Amy Ahomiro to a utility position while making way for Maddie Madayag as a middle player. And there too was that adjustment of Gizelle Tan and eventually Jamie Lavitoria as libero. But it seems that the past two and a half games, they’ve got it down pat. With the starting six and the rotation more or less set (with Kim Gequillana coming in for spot duty and Ponggay Gaston given her first taste of UAAP action), Ateneo coach Anusorn Bundit is gearing up for a longer battle. Five-and-oh doesn’t mean a thing yet.
The Lady Eagles are constantly being tested and so far they have risen to the occasion.
Maddie Madayag is just fun to watch
The most improved player in the league is also the best server and one of the best blockers. She’s also the 17th best scorer in the UAAP. She goes about her work without fanfare; no excessive celebration and posturing, while knocking down those hammer spikes.
When you think about it, last season Coach Tai was giving Maddie a taste of league action with spot duty here and there. If you ask me, that prepped her for this year. Nothing like a rookie being given a chance to play and show her worth. That makes this year’s adjustment a little easier. Just like what Tai did to Gaston against Adamson (with a lot of credit to setter Jia Morado) — score a meaningful point in a big game; that should get her confidence going.
Madayag, now full of confidence, is getting better game by game. She sure is fun to watch.
Can the Ateneo Lady Eagles incredibly be a better offensive bunch?
You have to appreciate that Alyssa Valdez doesn’t need to over-exert herself this year. She is getting a lot of scoring help from her teammates.
Five of the Top 25 scorers in the league are from Ateneo — Valdez, Madayag, Bea De Leon, Jhoana Maraguinot, and Ahomiro. That says a lot.