• Ateneo Lady Blue Eagles soar

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    FLYING HIGH The Lady Blue Eagles celebrate after winning their back-to-back UAAP women’s volleyball crown. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

    FLYING HIGH The Lady Blue Eagles celebrate after winning their back-to-back UAAP women’s volleyball crown. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

    Reigning champion Ateneo De Manila University, undefeated in 16 games this season, claimed a back-to-back title by beating De La Salle University, 25-22, 25-17, 25-23, in Game 2 of the best-of-three finals of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s volleyball competition at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Saturday.

    The Lady Blue Eagles, that won Game 1 of the finals 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 against the Lady Green Archers on Wednesday, were armed with a thrice-to-beat incentive after finishing the 14-game elimination round undefeated.

    Though plagued with injuries, De La Salle University started hot in the opening set and posted a four-point lead. But the Lady Green Archers couldn’t sustain the momentum after Ateneo responded aggressively late in the first set behind Alyssa Valdez’s explosive kills.

    Valdez, who was awarded her second Most Valuable Player trophy, led the Lady Blue Eagles with 20 points and 19 kills while teammates Amy Ahomiro, Michelle Morente and Jhoana Louisse Maraguinot contributed 10 points apiece.

    Valdez scored four straight kills in the second set to provide Ateneo a wide 24-16 lead. In the third set, De La Salle failed to keep its 10-5 edge after Valdez and Ahomiro combined forces to reclaim the lead.

    “We are blessed to win this year’s championship after all the hard work,” said Valdez.

    “I’m speechless, so shocked. I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” said Ahomiro, who won the Finals MVP award.

    Ateneo’s Thai head coach Tai Bundit was named Coach of the Season for keeping the Lady Blue Eagles unbeaten this year.

    De La Salle’s championship bid was crippled after its star players Ara Galang and Camille Cruz both suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during the playoff round.

    Mary Joy Baron and Mika Reyes finished with nine and eight points, respectively, for La Salle under head coach Ramil De Jesus.

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