MANILA, Philippines -- The Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles are dealing with disappointment after seeing their defense of the UAAP women's volleyball crown come to an unsatisfying end.
The Lady Eagles played just two games in UAAP Season 82 -- one win, and one loss -- before the season was terminated due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There were hopes that UAAP events would resume, but the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until April 30 put an end to that possibility.
Instead, the Lady Eagles are left wondering what could have been.
"Frankly, most of (my players) are in low morale," head coach Oliver Almadro said in a message to ABS-CBN News. "(They are) sad now, there is a decrease in motivation for them to work hard every day, even in ECQ."
The Lady Eagles, like the rest of the UAAP teams, had been keeping in shape while the lockdown was in place. Last March 25, they even shared a workout routine with their fans, with an accompanying message of optimism.
"While we wait for our return to the court, the push for excellence never stops," the team said. "Whether it's on the court or at home, let's continue to uplift each other through movement."
"The grind never stops as we look forward to returning to the court and giving you a 'one big fight'," they added.
That return was not meant to be, however. The Lady Eagles instead ended their campaign with a 1-1 slate, after sweeping University of the Philippines then losing to De La Salle University in four sets. They had been looking forward to getting back on the right track against University of the East in a game scheduled on March 11.
On March 10, the UAAP suspended all activities for a week. Four days later, Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine. When the lockdown was extended to the whole of Luzon, the UAAP decided to cancel its high school tournaments.
And with its extension to the end of the month, the league was left with little choice.
"Personally, I am saddened about the cancellation of the UAAP," Almadro said. "After all the hard work and sacrifices, the UAAP will be concluded in this manner."
"But considering the uncertainty and unsafe situation because of COVID-19 in our country and the whole world, we just have to acknowledge the perspective, that this is the right decision of the UAAP," he added.
"The situation is much bigger than the UAAP," he stressed.
Almadro knows they are in an unprecedented situation. The UAAP's decision leaves many questions unanswered, including the eligibility of senior athletes who should have been playing in their final seasons.
There is no assurance, moreover, that the pandemic will be under control in time for the next season.
"In my 23 years of coaching in the UAAP, from assistant to head coach, I haven't experienced this kind of 'rest,'" Almadro said.
"We don't know where to start after a vacation, what timetable to prepare, what program to apply because of the uncertainty of the calendar," he added. "I just have to equip myself too, in various ways, para pagtapos, meron din ako natutunan to be shared to my teams and my players."
"In this time, I just have to depend on God's plan."
Almadro said he has yet to talk to his senior players regarding their next step, and they are waiting for the UAAP to give clearer directions regarding their eligibility. He is also working to keep his players' spirits high despite the recent developments.
"I am convincing them to stay strong and be courageous," he said. "This is the time they have to be 'still' and realize that the Lord is in control, that all of these has reasons."
"Their talent will still be there. Their energy and strength now should be used to be of blessing to others," he added.
In the meantime, Almadro is backing the efforts of the players and the league to help in the fight against COVID-19. Volleyball players have been especially visible, with several stars putting up fundraisers to help the frontliners and health care workers.
"Right now, there is no blue, green, yellow, maroon. We should be one and united in supporting and helping to heal and flatten the curve, by staying at home or being an instrument in our own way," he said.
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