By Kristel Satumbaga
What they lack in height, they make up for heart and passion.
Ateneo Lady Eagles coach Oliver Almadro believes they still have what it takes to defend their UAAP women’s volleyball crown when the 82nd season begins on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Eagles won’t be seeing action until Wednesday, and Almandro said they are ready for another competitive year where the squad will be parading a mixture of veteran and rookie players.
The return of Kat Tolentino, Jamie Lavitoria and Jhoanna Maraguinot will provide Ateneo depth after the exit of Bea de Leon, Maddie Madayag, Kim Gequillana and Deanna Wong. It is enough as far as Almadro is concerned.
De Leon, Madayag and Gequillana have graduated while Wong opted to skip her final year to recuperate from a recurring injury.
“I’m happy that they came back. If not for them, I’ll be a sophomore-and-rookie-laden team,” said Almadro.
Tolentino, one of the Lady Eagles’ Triple Towers, along with De Leon and Maddayag, initially decided last November to skip her final year, but had a change of heart to help deliver another trophy to Katipunan.
“They inspire the rookies to give more and give back to Ateneo. They’re sacrificing a lot, their time, energy… Dito na pumapasok yung passion,” Almadro said.
“Kaya I told my players, nawala man yung height, yung passion and attitude natin should always be there. And I believe in them.”
With rival teams eyeing to dethrone them, Almandro reminds his players to be prepared and work twice as hard.
“It’s a well-balanced team. I hope that with the level of competitiveness in the UAAP, the rookies and the sophomores will deliver… kasi it’s not about the talent lang eh, it’s also about the character. And I know the seniors will help them naman,” said Almadro.
The Lady Eagles open their title retention campaign on Wednesday against University of the Philippines Lady Maroons at the Mall of Asia Arena.