Sabaldan: Amazing Alyssa Valdez and ‘Sarah-pova' in the sideline

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By Romy Sabaldan

Davao Beat

Sunday, February 19, 2012


ATENEO de Manila University (AdMU) Lady Eagles had proven to be the most improved volleyball team in the current UAAP season under the direction of coach Roger Gorayeb.

That goes with it the very obvious, highly noticeable improvement in the individual performance of such popular mainstays as Fille Saint Merced Cainglet, Angeline Gervacio, Gretchen Ho, Jamenea Ferrer, Allysse Carol Nacachi and the flexible libero Dennise Michelle Lazaro.

Of course, their two, first-in-history achievements speak loudly of the above claims which are shared mostly by Davao fans of the UAAP. Their twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals against the formidable Lady Tigresses of the University of Sto. Tomas over the weekend had never happened before in any of the Lady Eagles’ furious campaign within the country's premier university volleyball games.

Maru Banaticla, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz and Judy Caballejo, all remnants of the championship glory days of Uste in the era of the talented Dabawenya MJ Balse and Aiza Maizo, Cainglet's fellow Ilonga performer in Manila's UAAP.

All down by two straight sets against a fiery start by the Lady Eagles, the UST quartet kept alive its hopes in the ensuing battle with what looks to me as the most exciting third set comeback of the entire season at 25-22.

But Valdez killed them all. The rookie scoring machine all tournament long registered the latest first-class performance at 22 points, 18 attacks and 3 blocks.

Cainglet made it more miserable for UST coach Ogie Mamon in her persistent attacks as though the petite Lady Eagle is having a flying harness every time she goes out for a kill. Gervacio sets up the match point (24-19) in the fourth set that was fraught with many long rallies and Valdez finished it off and sent the Ateneo Lady Eagles to the finals for the first time in their UAAP campaign against the De La Salle University Lady Spikers on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in San Juan City, Metro Manila.

Amazing Allysa Valdez is the reincarnation of the unforgettable Charo Soriano who is learning the trade with Gorayeb as a bench tactician in the coaching staff.

And look who's in the new rooster of the Ateneo Lady Eagles. Still feeling their way to the top of the best and most prestigious volleyball tournament in the country are Mary Mae Tajima and Sarah Cruz, formerly of the champion Ateneo de Davao during their Dacs and Davraa days.

Tajima is currently the tallest player of the team in the same line-up as Marie de Jesus, Jessica Bagatsing, Natasha Faustino and Maria Beatriz Dominique Tan.

Marry Mae would be another feather in the cap of Roger Gorayeb if the UAAP and NCAA’s most amiable coach can transform the flat-footed 6-foot, two player into a fine fighting machine. A few more months and Tajima would be Nacachi’s towering double.

Best remembered in her high school days at Ateneo de Davao as a talented, all-around volleyball player, their freshman colleague acquires jersey No. 10 and goes by the name Ma. Sarah Lauren Cruz.

Ateneo's present brand of rugged plays in the court is not customary to their image as children of affluent families in Philippine sports. They're no longer children. They don't even look like ladies anymore with the way they dive and dig, hugging the floor and flexible-rolling their bodies to save the ball for that exciting rallies.

"Sarah-pova," the new moniker, symbolizes the athleticism, grace and dedication of the Lady Eagles and a salutation to their hard work in the San Juan Arena.

UAAP Beat: Love me for a reason. - Gretchen Ho

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 20, 2012.

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