MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo seniors Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon heaped praise on libero Dani Ravena, after their younger teammate submitted a heroic performance in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 Finals against University of Santo Tomas.
Ravena, the youngest sister of basketball stars Kiefer and Thirdy, turned in what may have been the best game of her collegiate career just when the Lady Eagles needed it most.
With Ateneo facing elimination in the UAAP finals and veteran Kim Gequillana struggling, coach Oliver Almadro called on Ravena. She responded by putting up 22 digs and 12 receptions, while doing her best to contain the powerful attacks of UST superstar Sisi Rondina. Ravena even scored for Ateneo, as her wild save in the fourth set put the Lady Eagles at match point.
She went on to earn player of the game honors after the Lady Eagles claimed a 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15 triumph to send the title series to a deciding Game 3.
Game 3 is at Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday.
"In my head, my mindset was how can we say no to the request of the seniors," Ravena said after the game. "Gusto pa nila mag-training sa Thursday."
"So I mean, how can you say no to that?" she added. " 'Yung hard work nila, all those years of training and playing. That's my main motivation talaga. I really want them to have a goodbye na wala lahat kaming regrets."
Madayag and de Leon both expressed their pride for Ravena, who has earned her fair share of criticism for her struggles on the court, even as she continues to grow into her role for their team.
"Definitely, we're proud na 'yung bata namin, nag-step up big time," said Madayag, who led the team with 17 points including 4 kill blocks.
Madayag said Ravena's brand of energy was exactly what they needed as a team, especially on Wednesday when they were playing in a do-or-die game.
"Kailangan namin ng nagli-lead sa loob. Not just us leaders na kailangang mag-ingay — everybody has to do their job. Everybody has to talk, everybody has to know what they're doing," said Madayag. "We're very proud of Dani."
De Leon noted that Ravena has been "counted out," especially after her woes in the previous season, which saw Ateneo fail to make the finals. However, she also witnessed how hard their libero worked to improve.
"I always tell her na, 'Dani, you've earned my respect, and your maturity has grown talaga every step of the way'," said de Leon.
"She knows how much she sacrificed," she added. "Today was a big day for her, and I hope it keeps coming because I know that this is only the start for her."
Ravena faces another test on Saturday, when the Lady Eagles and the Golden Tigresses tangle for one last time, with the winner emerging as Season 81 champions.
The sophomore libero said she will once again draw strength from her family, teammates, and the Ateneo supporters as they head to their biggest game of the season.
"I think that helped me a lot, knowing that there's like a thousand people behind you," said Ravena. "And, you're playing not only for yourself, but for your teammates and the whole community."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.