ATENEO de Manila University claimed its first UAAP women’s volleyball crown by outlasting defending champion De La Salle University in a five-set thriller on Saturday.
Skipper Alyssa Valdez powered Ateneo to a 25-23, 26-24, 25-21 upset victory in front of a packed Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Valdez carried the Lady Blue Eagles scored 18 kills and two service points for 21 points to lead her team. Teammates Michelle Kathreen Morente added 11 kills and Jorella Marie de Jesus contributed 10 points.
It was the Lady Eagles’ first volleyball title since joining the league in 1978.
“Our goal first was to reach the final four and then we won the championship. My teammates played their very best each game to overcome La Salle’s thrice-to-beat bonus in the finals,” said Valdez. “We are all very happy to make it and I can’t believe it. We are so thankful to God and to everybody.”
“I’m so very happy that there are many fans who watched and supported us,” said Ateneo head coach Anusorn “Tai” Bundit. “I know we can make it.”
Alyssa Valdez, the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, Best Scorer and Server, fired a set-clinching kill over two defenders late in the first set to give the Lady Blue Eagles the first set, 25-23.
De La Salle University squandered a good lead late in the second set after stringing several errors, allowing Ateneo to unleash a 7-2 run to wipe out a 23-18 deficit and force a tiebreak at 24-all.
Valdez and Amy Ahomiro scored on a kill and a block to complete the impressive run and stretch Ateneo’s set lead to 2-0.
While La Salle struggled in the third set, Ateneo sustained its fine start and led as many as seven points in that set to complete the epic win.
Ateneo became the second school to overcome a thrice-to-beat disadvantage in the UAAP after University of the Philippines women’s team in table tennis team won three times over unbeaten De La Salle University in the finals series in 2013.
Ateneo won the series opener, 17-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20, before La Salle came up with a 25-14, 25-20, 19-25, 26-24 win in Game 2. Ateneo bagged Game 3 via 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 17-15 victory in to force a winner-take-all game.
JOSEF T. RAMOS