MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University head coach Oliver Almadro said his players' work, faith and courage led the Lady Eagles to an impressive victory in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 finals, allowing them to force a deciding game for the championship.
The Lady Eagles were down, 0-1, in the best-of-3 series and playing with their backs against the wall for the second time in the postseason.
Like they did against Far Eastern University in the Final 4, however, the Lady Eagles came through with a superb effort to turn back University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Game 2 of the finals, 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15, on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
That allowed Ateneo to force a winner-takes-all contest for the Season 81 crown.
"We won with hard work, with faith and courage. That's it. Yun lang talaga," Almadro said in a brief interview after the contest.
The Lady Eagles had been emotional following their loss in Game 1, which saw them dismantled by the Golden Tigresses in straight sets.
"Naunahan talaga kami," Ateneo captain Bea de Leon admitted, when asked how Game 1 played out for them.
None of the Lady Eagles spoke to media after dropping the series opener, and Almadro himself offered just a few words. But after they knotted the finals series at one game apiece, Almadro said it was all about his players who refused to go away quietly.
"It's their faith," said Almadro. "They really believe in the faith, they really believe in the system. Itinuro na sa kanila. Kailangan lang talaga i-recall and stick with it."
"They stuck together, 'yun ang pinaka-importante. 'Yun ang nakita ko. Kasi, it's not me, it's them. Sila ang nag-trabaho," he stressed.
Ateneo never got untracked in Game 1, as they had no answer for the unwavering attacks of UST captain Sisi Rondina. But they put up a much better front in Game 2, forcing Rondina to work much harder for her points. They also got bounce-back performances from De Leon and Maddie Madayag, who had been inefficient in the first game.
The hero of the match was libero Dani Ravena, who got 22 digs and 12 receptions, and even put Ateneo at match point when she sent a wild ball right to an open spot in the UST court.
With his team's hopes of a title still alive, Almadro and the Lady Eagles will not veer away from what has worked for them.
"This game, it was given to us by the Lord," he said. "So we have to keep the momentum, and keep the faith."
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