Ateneo looked almost unrecognizable when it opened its 13th Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference campaign Monday at the PhilSports Arena.
Save for regulars Jia Morado, Kim Gequillana and Gizelle Tan, the rest of the Lady Eagles’ starting spots were relegated to some of their returning spikers and new young guns.
This, according to veteran Bea de Leon who had to sit out the entire match, played a big role in their 5-set loss to TIP.
“Feel ko it’s such a new team, everyone was just nervous,” said De Leon on Ateneo’s jittery start.
Aside from De Leon, last year’s runners-up also missed the services of their most prolific scorers in Jho Maraguinot, who is nursing a leg injury, and Alyssa Valdez, who opted not to see action to give way to her younger teammates.
The result? The Katipunan crew fumbled, helping the cause of the Lady Engineers by committing 52 unforced errors.
Considering their depleted lineup, the middle blocker chooses to view the loss as a moral victory.
“Definitely, every point is an achievement,” de Leon said.
“A lot of us didn’t get to play. It was a different team. Ana (Gopico) just came back. Jules (Samonte) is new. Mich (Morente) just came back also,” she added. “I think eventually we’ll get there. Even I was nervous coming into this game even though I wasn’t going to play. Simula pa lang.”
Without De Leon, fellow middle blocker Gopico officially announced her return from her multiple knee injuries with a bang, scoring 10 points behind Ponggay Gaston’s 17, Morente’s 16, and Gequillana’s 13 points.
Asked why she did not see action against TIP, de Leon shares: “I sprained my back. Hindi ko pa sure how long I will be back. If I don’t rest it it will be chronic. That’s why I don’t train.”
While her return to training and playing is still uncertain, the Poveda alumna is positive that her team has what it takes to remain competitive in the tournament with or without her inside the court.
“Every player would say na mas mahirap manood lang. I wish I could have been there and hopefully made a difference. It was sad to sit it out but definitely kayang kaya ng team ko ‘yan,” said de Leon.
“The resting is for the future din naman,” she closed. — By Mac Dionisio