MANILA, Philippines -- The core members of Ateneo de Manila University's championship-winning squad in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament will officially reunite in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL).
This, after setter Deanna Wong joined the Choco Mucho Flying Titans. Her signing was confirmed along with that of former University of Santo Tomas standout Caitlyn Viray on Sunday evening.
Wong now joins a team that already includes former Ateneo stars Bea de Leon, Kat Tolentino, and Maddie Madayag, and is coached by Lady Eagles mentor Oliver Almadro. The Flying Titans are coming off their debut campaign in the PVL, finishing 7th in the Open Conference last season.
"I'm excited for this Ateneo reunion," Tolentino said. "With Coach O as the head coach and Deanna joining us, we have the opportunity to follow a similar system as the Season 81 championship. And of course, I'm also excited because I love playing with my Ateneo teammates."
Madayag is also looking forward to their reunion with Wong, the UAAP's Best Setter in Season 80 and their playmaker in their run to the title. The middle blocker had formed a prolific partnership with Wong in Season 81, and she lauded the setter's ability to elevate her performance when it matters most.
"We all know how intense (Deanna) gets when it comes to big games, so we know what she can bring to the team," Madayag said.
"She's also a leader in her own way, and it's good that we also have a setter who can block really well," she added. "But other than that, it's really Coach O's system that will make us gel as a team."
De Leon, for her part, believes the connection they have with Wong will be a major boost to Choco Mucho, as the setter already has chemistry with most of her spikers.
"I'm very excited to have her in the team," said de Leon, the captain of the Ateneo team that won the UAAP Season 81 crown. "Especially because connection takes a while to build, and with her there, it takes a huge load off our shoulders, especially given the fact that both time and timing has yet to be on our side as a team."
One thing that Madayag is also excited for is to see how Wong and Tolentino play with libero Denden Lazaro. A two-time UAAP champion with the Lady Eagles, Lazaro joined the Flying Titans earlier this year as well after spending the past few years in the Philippine Superliga.
Madayag and De Leon played with Lazaro as rookies in UAAP Season 77, but neither Wong nor Tolentino have shared the court with the famed "Iron Eagle."
"It's a big morale booster lalo na you have a talented libero like her," Madayag said of Lazaro. "Never sila nag-abot noong first year namin eh. Kat was injured, and Deanna was a batch younger than us."
"I'm just more excited on how we will all play together as a team," she said.
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