Lady Eagles finally land the big one
() - May 18, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ateneo ended its long search for a Shakey’s V-League championship by repulsing Adamson in a thriller of a five-setter, 24-26, 25-18, 25-22, 19-25, 15-11, yesterday to capture the first conference crown – and its first major women’s volley title in over three decades – before a packed crowd at The Arena in San Juan.

The Lady Eagles rode on the shoulders of the young Alyssa Valdez, the playmaking skills of setter Jem Ferrer and the spunk of the entire team to pull through in a gut-wrenching stage and claim the victory over the very same team that foiled their first crack at a Shakey’s volley title three years ago.

“We’ve been wanting to give something back to the school,” said Ateneo rookie mentor and former star Charo Soriano, who at 25 also became the youngest coach to win a crown in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza.

Ateneo thus wrapped up the best-of-three series, 2-0, after stopping Adamson, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-20, in the playoff opener last Sunday.

“We are very, very happy because after all these decades, we’re able to give honor to our school. It’s very fulfilling,” she added.

The last time Ateneo won a women’s volley crown was in the 1976-77 season of the NCAA under coach Pitong Custodio.

Valdez took charge in the decider, starring in Ateneo’s stirring breakaway from a 5-all count that saw the Lady Eagles rack up five straight points, then unloaded three straight kills that defused the Lady Falcons’ last-ditch rally.

The last Valdez spike gave Ateneo a 13-9 lead but Nerissa Bautista countered with her own attack to cut the lead to three before the Falcons made an error to give the Eagles four match points.

Bautista foiled the celebration with another kill but Thai reinforcement Kesinee Lithawat knocked in tap shot in between Adamson defenders to end the two-hour match and the Lady Falcons’ back-to-back championship bid in the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Accel.

More importantly, it snapped the six-year title drought for Ateneo, which finished fourth in its 2005 debut then spent the next of its campaigns out of the title picture before reaching the finals in the 2008 first conference won by Adamson.

Valdez also bagged the best of the player of the game as she finished with 18 attacks, four blocks and two service points, matching the 24-point output of Lithawat.

Fille Cainglet likewise sustained a superb performance in the conference, adding 18 hits, including 17 kills as she teamed up with Valdez and Kesinee upfront while Dzi Gervacio backed them up with solid nine points.

But it was Ferrer who kept the team’s offense going, coming through with 86 excellent sets to emerge the Finals MVP.

Bautista finished with 28 hits, including 24 attacks that went to naught, while Soriano and Michelle Laborte added 16 and 13 points for the Lady Falcons.

Earlier, University of St. La Salle-Bacolod repeated over National U, 25-17, 25-21, 25-23, to bag third place in the tournament sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza and organized by Sports Vision.

Guest players Jovelyn Gonzaga and Aiza Maizo combined for 24 kills as the Lady Stingers outhit the Bulldogs, 51-29, to set the tone for their victory.

Maizo and Gonzaga, who both came in a bit late for the team to contend for the crown, finished with 13 points apiece while scoring leader Patty Orendain and Sheryl Denila each had 11 hits for USLS, which also took the opener, 16-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-22, of their own best-of-three series for third.

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