I’ve rued so much about this blog entry — how I should write about each graduating player, or about how I feel more personally invested in this compared to basketball, or how I should try to predict next game’s outcome. But I’m not equipped for any of that, I just started watching last year.
The first full length Volleyball game I watched was last year’s Ateneo – La Salle finals opener. The DLSU Lady Spikers were poised to take the championship easily — they had a thrice-to-beat advantage after sweeping the eliminations — but the AdMU Lady Eagles weren’t going to hand it over. They took game one, ended a nine-game losing streak to La Salle, ended their 25-game winning streak, despite the psychological disadvantage. It was a message — Ateneo had finally arrived in volleyball.
While they eventually ended up 2nd to La Salle — that season was the charmer for a lot of Ateneans, it was time to pay attention.
This season, I tried to watch all the games live either in The Arena (trust me, it was an effort to get to and from that part of San Juan), or through livestream. More than the game, the players grew on me — Fille Cainglet, Gretchen Ho, Jem Ferrer, Dzi Gervacio, and most especially Alyssa Valdez. Boom Gonzales calls it, “The Jem Ferrer Era”.
I’ve come to cheer even more for the players, than the team, reminiscent of Chris Tiu’s days in Men’s Basketball.
Which is why last Saturday was really a heartbreaker — not because they were only one set away from winning, but because you know how much these girls have dreamed of getting here, and how close, yet so far they are from the championship. It’s the Fab Five’s last playing year, so even if Alyssa Valdez will still be here next year, it’s never going to be the same again.
Sportswriter and friend, Eugs Naredo (@camillenaredo) says that as a sportswriter, she believes that La Salle will take game two on Wednesday. But as an Atenean, she sure hopes so that Ateneo musters enough strength for game two.
More than anything, I feel like this season is like Ateneo’s 2002 Men’s Basketball performance — started strong, humps in the middle, eventually found their way into the finals. Ateneo was destined to win that season — what else could it have been? They had to win the last five games in the second round, had to beat a tough second seed to get to the finals, and had to duke it out with a much more experienced La Salle team, in which they emerged champs after three games.
I may have started watching just a year ago — but strongly feel that my hopes aren’t misplaced for the game on Wednesday. Destiny is waiting, our Volleyball history in the making, ready to be claimed.
Ateneo. In three games.
Post-script: Ateneo won the championship in 2014 in three games against, well, La Salle.