No stopping Bea De Leon in returning crown back to Katipunan

Down to the final stretch of the season, team captain Bea De Leon vows to give it her all to bring back lost glory to Katipunan.

De Leon and the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles successfully return to the finals after dismantling the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws in four sets, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, last Wednesday in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball semifinals at the Filoil Flying V Center.

After failing to capitalize on their twice-to-beat advantage with their five-set loss last Saturday, the Lady Eagles played their hearts out in the do-or-die game to book a finals stint and get a shot at the title they last won back in Season 77.

Despite a minimal nine-point performance from De Leon, it was enough to pull Ateneo through as she helped Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag who finished with 19 and 12 points respectively.

The graduating middle blocker expressed her gratitude after being back to the championship round after two years, thanking her team for working hard and trusting the process.

“I just kept praying regardless where I was, whether on the bench or on the court. I’m thankful for the Lord because He got us here–there’s one more job left, but I’m just thankful that we got to this point,” De Leon said.

With their backs against the wall after dropping their previous five-set game against the Lady Tamaraws, the Lady Eagles quickly regrouped and refused to entertain the thought of ending their season so soon.

Their victory also served as payback for last season’s heartbreak, after FEU halted their six-year finals streak with a four-set semifinal win over the Lady Eagles.

“We didn’t entertain the thought that it was our last game. I didn’t want to and didn’t mention it. We knew and we trusted that this was for us,” De Leon said.

The Lady Eagles got first blood as they took the opening set with ease, sparked by Madayag’s defensive prowess at the net and giving Ateneo the momentum.

However, the Lady Tamaraws turned their game around in the following set, inching back from a huge deficit and hanging on in the final stretch to tie the game one set apiece.

FEU established a late comeback in the third set as they saved three set points, 23-24, but Ateneo took the set when they still had the chance, with open spiker Ponggay Gaston scoring an off-the-block spike for a two-set advantage.

The Lady Eagles were on fire in the fourth set as the Lady Tamaraws lost steam, with the former firing from all ends to clinch the win and send themselves back to the finals, a feat they last achieved back in Season 79.

The championship series is an apt outcome for the Katipunan squad, who finished as the top-ranked team with 12 wins and two losses in the eliminations.

It has been quite a title drought for De Leon, who was a rookie when Ateneo last won the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament back in Season 77.

With the win, the Lady Eagles go to the finals against second seed University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, a team they defeated twice in the eliminations.

Going into their last few games, De Leon said it will all come down to having faith in one another and quickly adjusting their game for the Lady Eagles to take home the crown.

“Everything will all boil down to trust–trusting the system, trusting each other, trusting Coach O. Tiwala lang sa system kahit mahirap mag-adjust and mag-adapt right away–we took everything and kept learning,” De Leon said.

De Leon and the rest of the Lady Eagles look to get first blood over the Tigresses tomorrow in Game One at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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