Mendoza: Ateneo win: From obscurity to celebrity

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By Al S. Mendoza

All Write

Monday, March 17, 2014


THERE is still much hangover over Ateneo’s stirring victory in the just-ended 76th UAAP women’s volleyball championship.

Reason? It was almost a totally unexpected feat.

For one, Ateneo, after being merely a title pretender at the end of eliminations, needed three near-impossible wins in the five-game finals to capture the crown.

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For another, La Salle, after a spectacular 14-game sweep to enter the finals unscathed, needed only two triumphs in the five-game finals against Ateneo to pocket a fourth straight title in as many years.

Unfortunately for La Salle, Ateneo had something unfathomable, if not downright miraculous, up its sleeves entering The Finals after avoiding elimination three times.

And then it happened.

Ateneo won Game 1 in five heart-stopping sets and, after yielding Game 2 in four equally lung-busting frames, it swept Games 3 & 4 for the trophy.

Ateneo even made it doubly painful as it inflicted La Salle a 3-0 rout in the winner-take-all fourth match.

Improbable as it was, the 3-1 win installed Ateneo the instant toast and, in the process, transformed the great learning institution from obscurity to celebrity in “volleyball-landia.”

For 36 years a mere stat in volleyball play, Ateneo would scale the heights with the suddenness of a bamboozling Mt. Pinatubo eruption after being dormant for nearly 600 years.

The tremor signs begun when Ateneo placed second in 2012. The rumblings seemed to heighten when Ateneo placed second—again behind La Salle—in 2013.

Grasping the signals, Ateneo went on a dramatic, if not thoroughly drastic, move to overhaul its coaching staff.

It hired a foreign coach, one from Thailand named Anusorn “Tai” Bundit, 48, who handles Thailand’s volleyball training pool.

That was last August. Eight months later, Bundit, the dancing, air-punching Ateneo coach, would give Ateneo its first UAAP crown.

“Without him, we would not have become champions,” said Alyssa Valdez, both the season MVP and Finals MVP. “He was the spark.”

It took a foreigner to do it for Ateneo.

Don’t be surprised if the others would follow suit.

(alsol47@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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