Sudden death, five sets, two-point win. This is what defines a team and what makes victories sweeter.
And Ateneo wants to relish the moment.
Sure, the Lady Eagles also needed five sets to beat the Adamson Lady Falcons in the second game to complete a sweep of their best-of-three series in last year’s Shakey’s V-League finals.
But this time, they humbled a team so rich in championship experience and so determined to mark its return to the big league from a two-year hiatus with no less than a title romp.
Ateneo was equally resolute. Although the Lady Eagles appeared to have faltered after storming to a 2-0 set lead in their winner-take-all match, they endured the pressure, bucked a three-point deficit in the early going of the decider then withstood UST’s fiery comeback to prevail.
“They showed maturity in this game,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb in Filipino moments after his wards held off the Tigresses for the title-clinching 25-19, 25-14, 17-25, 20-25, 15-13, victory before a big crowd at The Arena last Sunday.
“They follow instructions and are not difficult to deal with,” said Gorayeb. “When UST made a rally, they were not rattled and stayed composed and focused.”
The Lady Eagles actually turned erratic in the third and fourth sets that enabled the Tigresses to come back and send the match into a decider. But Gorayeb kept on pointing out their flaws in reception and the Lady Eagles responded to save their lead, the match and the crown.
“For us, UST is the more experienced team. But we kept ourselves composed,” said Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez, who combined with Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio, Suzanne Roces, Gretchen Ho, Ella de Jesus, liberos Den-den Lazaro and Beatriz Tan, best blocker Thai Lithawat Kesinee and best setter Jem Ferrer to deliver the goods for Ateneo for the second straight year.
Valdez, who spiked her stint with 22 hits, including 19 kills, also helped steer Ateneo to its first championship last year with former star player Charo Soriano at the helm. But this one proved sweeter for the lanky power-hitter, who capped the team’s successful title-retention bid by winning the Finals MVP crown.