Rookie Kat Tolentino and veterans Michelle Morente, Jia Morado and Bea de Leon of the Ateneo Lady Eagles showed they are unstoppable as they edged out their archrivals, De La Salle Lady Spikers, in a gritty rival weekend held at Mall of Asia Arena.
With La Salle leading in the first and second sets, it was a battle of mental toughness and fortitude at the tail-end but the Lady Eagles proved they are the more mature team, closing both sets at 26-24.
Sparked by off-the-bench player May Luna, the Lady Spikers countered with dominance in the third set, from which Ateneo had difficulty to handle. In-game adjustments saw Arriane Layug and Norielle Ipac inside the court but Luna, with her leadership and spunk, scored off several impact points to end the set 25-21.
The fourth set was a different story altogether. It began with a neck-and-neck battle between the two teams but the Lady Spikers struggled with their floor defense, paving way for the Ateneo Lady Eagles to score back-to-back-to-back scoring from De Leon, Morente and Tolentino. In the end, Michelle Morente spearheaded late-set surges favoring the blue side and dominating their archrivals.
Tolentino scored 18 points from 16 attacks and 2 aces, lifting the Katipunan squad to the top of the standings at 6-1. Bea de Leon attributed their win to experience, saying they had the edge because of it. Jia Morado, the captain of the Ateneo squad finished with 79 excellent sets while Kim Fajardo had 76. Ateneo had the longest active winning streak for this season, only losing to NU Lady Bulldogs in the first round.
“It all boiled down to experience but the girls can do better.” assistant coach Sherwin Meneses said.
For La Salle, it was Kim Dy who top scored with 15 points. They are currently in second at 5-2 – pending the result of the match between UP Lady Maroons and NU Lady Bulldogs, which will ultimately determine the rankings in the preliminary round.
It is worthy to note that despite the exit of volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez, the Ateneo Lady Eagles remains to be a contender; ending the first round at 6-1. The rivalry had an attendance of 17,300+ for the La Salle and Ateneo faithful.