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Ateneo getting warmed up


Comebacking Ateneo de Manila University is slowly easing into form after barging into the win column of UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament.

Still in the process of adjusting to a new system under Brazilian head coach Sergio Veloso, the Blue Eagles had a rough start, losing back-to-back games before picking up a dramatic five-set come-from-behind victory over University of the Philippines handled by former mentor Oliver Almadro last Wednesday.

Ateneo, which had its worst record in 14 years last season in Almadro’s final stint with the Blue Eagles, climbed out of a 0-2 match hole in a reverse sweep of the Fighting Maroons, 22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-17, 15-9, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“I think for me, we’re starting really to find our groove, we’re starting to become more confident inside the court and that’s really important, especially going onto the next few games,” winger Sobe Buena said.

“I think we’ll just keep training and keep doing our best inside the court and just keep trusting each other and just enjoy the game.”

Buena tallied a career-best 18 points, all off attacks, while Lyann de Guzman also submitted a personal-high 24 markers from 19 kills, four kill blocks and an ace.

De Guzman also had 18 excellent receptions and 11 digs in an all-around performance for the Blue Eagles, who forced a three-way logjam at identical 1-2 win-loss records with Adamson University and University of the East.

“I could say that we showed consistency in this game, like coach said, we just need to keep playing and playing even if we’re down two sets because we have strong mind. In the end, we’ll be able to hold on,” De Guzman said.

Ateneo won its seventh straight head-to-head over UP and finally survived a five-setter this season after an earlier meltdown in its previous match against National University.

The Blue Eagles opened their campaign with a sorry four-set loss to rookie-laden University of the East.

“For me, this win is very helpful for us kasi because it will boost our confidence. We all know we’re doing great in training, and we can win. We just need to show it in the game. Follow the system of coach and do our job inside the court, like our role, each and every one of us,” De Guzman said.

Veloso, on the other hand, believes that total team effort — from starters to second-stringers — would do wonders.

“First point, we have more than six or seven players and that’s important. When players start to go down, you have (other) players to do and continue the level,” Veloso, who is also the head coach of the men’s national team, said.

“Second point, the set is until 25. You need to fight to get to this point. It does not matter if the other team is up three or four points in front or one, or two sets in front. Volleyball has five sets, and you need to win three. Keep playing.”

Ateneo’s next big challenge comes on Saturday when it clashes with archrival defending champion De La Salle University.

The Lady Spikers are also coming off a five-set match — a stinging upset loss to the league-leading unbeaten University of Santo Tomas.

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