The victorious Ateneo Lady Eagles whoop it up at centercourt after a straight-sets victory over the UST Tigresses in the deciding Game 3 of this year’s UAAP finals at the MOA Arena.
Russell Palma
‘We Are The Champions’
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Ateneo Whips UST For UAAP Crown

MANILA, Philippines — In the end, it was Ateneo’s “Heartstrong” and not the “Sisi Rondina Show” that enjoyed a perfect ending to an emotional dogfight for the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tiara.

Showing more poise in the pressure-packed winner-take-all, the Lady Eagles prevailed over the erratic Santo Tomas Tigresses, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22, to soar to the top again after three years of futility.

The Lady Eagles threw a block party on Rondina, the season MVP, and the Tigresses, extracting 14 points off their net blocking, and making the bigger hits in crunch time en route to capturing their first title since the Alyssa Valdez era in Season 77 and giving Oliver Almadro his golden debut as coach of the women’s team.

Kat Tolentino punched in 15 points while Maddie Madayag (six spikes and four blocks), and finals MVP Bea De Leon (six points) provided solid performances in their valedictory outings for AdMU, which overcame a 0-1 deficit before frustrating the Tigresses in the best-of-three series. 

The high-flying Rondina posted a game-high 18 built around 17 hits and one block for the losing side, which was hurt by a whopping 29 errors, but fell short of leaving a trophy in indoor volleyball to her school.

“It’s a blessing not just to have won the championship but the whole season, I mean, it wasn’t an easy job. There were a lot of ups and downs and it made us stronger,” said fourth-year player Tolentino after the Lady Eagles’ coronation in front of a crowd of 21,347 at the MOA Arena.

“With coach ‘O’ (Oliver) guiding us and teaching us to trust in God and trust in him and know there’s a plan for this team, it’s what brought us to this point,” she added. 

Almadro, a three-peat champion in the men’s division, proved himself a worthy successor to Thai Anusorn Bundit, who steered the Lady Eagles to back-to-back diadems in Seasons 76 and 78 (2014 and 2015) behind the “Heartstrong” mantra.

“My players’ passion in Game Three spelled the difference today. They wanted it more,” said Almadro.

The Lady Eagles capitalized on five blocks and 13 errors by the Tigresses to run away with an eight-point in the opening set. 

With Rondina taking charge, the Thomasians seized a 20-18 lead in the second, but the Ateneans fought back hard, leaning on De Leon, Tolentino and Deanna Wong’s efforts to finish the set on a 7-2 run and go up, 2-0. 

No-quit UST forced AdMU to a 22-22 standoff in the third before Madayag knocked in back-to-back points to put the Lady Eagles on the hill. Jules Samonte sealed it on the attack.

Players from both sides shed tears in the end.

“Don’t count the heart of the champion out,” said Almadro. “When we lost the first game of the season, everybody counted us out. But we still made it because of our faith and courage and we worked hard as a team, as a family.  When we lost to UST in Game One, they said we won’t win against UST, but we still made it.” 

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