Ateneo bucked the absence of top hitter Alyssa Valdez and made do with an eight-player rotation as it turned back University of Santo Tomas, 25-11, 27-25, 19-25, 25-20, on Saturday to kick off its title drive in the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Collegiate Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
Jhoanna Maraguinot unleashed a game-high 23 hits, including 21 on kills to fill the void left by Valdez, who opted to take a much-needed rest following a hectic summer schedule that included stints in the league’s Open Conference, the Asian Under-23 and the SEA Games in Singapore.
“No injuries. I’m still resting and coach Tai [Bundit] doesn’t want me to play yet,” said Valdez, who was nevertheless on the bench and ready to suit up any moment the Lady Eagles would need her services.
But Maraguinot, and seven others, proved up to the task as they survived a strong UST fightback in the second frame and rebounded from a lackluster third set performance to fashion out the one-hour, 51-minute victory before a big weekend crowd.
Fil-Canadian rookie Kat Tolentino, one of Ateneo’s two guest players, was actually set to play but hurt her foot during warm-up, forcing the coaching staff to sit her out the whole match that kicked off the mid-season offering of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
Maraguinot, who also saw action for the National team in the Asian U-23 tilt, stepped up big while mainstays Amy Ahomiro and Bea de Leon provided added firepower with 14 and 12, respectively.
Guest player Fil-Japanese Risa Sato, who will also debut this season together Tolentino in the UAAP wars, made quite an impression in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel with nine hits.
Also taking a rest for the star-studded defending UAAP champion was Jia Morado with Gizelle Tan taking over and producing 23 excellent sets.
Ateneo also came up with a surprise, converting Ella de Jesus, a spiker in a libero following the graduation of Denden Lazaro.
Skipper Pam Lastimosa fired 14 hits and EJ Laure and Carmela Tunay added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Tigresses, who came out flat in the opener, came out short in the second but dominated the Lady Eagles in the third.
But the six-time champions failed to sustain their comeback with Marivic Meneses, UAAP’s top blocker, struggling and groping for just four hits.
Meanwhile, action resumes today (Sunday) with another triplebill, featuring the National U-University of the Philippines match to be shown live at 12:45 p.m. on GMA News TV Channel 11.
Technological Institute of the Philippines and La Salle-Dasmariñas clash at 3 p.m. while NCAA champion Arellano opens its bid against Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
Games can also be viewed live via streaming on www.v-league.ph, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
FEU and University of Baguio, and San Sebastian and St. Benilde were playing at presstime.
12:45 p.m. – UP vs NU
3 p.m. – TIP vs La Salle-Dasma
5 p.m. – Arellano vs PUP