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Ateneo brushes off slow start vs. UST to earn first win

The Ateneo Lady Eagles grabbed their first victory in the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament at the expense of the UST Golden Tigresses on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

Ateneo overcame a lackluster start, 16-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23, to finally break into the win column after three games.

Veteran Bea de Leon finished with 11 points, including three service aces and the quick hit that clinched the match.

"I think we went back to coach Tai (Bundit)'s mantra of happy, happy 'heartstrong.' We said that everything we do, we have to do it happy, we have to do it together and we just can't give up," said De Leon on how they recovered from their winless start to the season.

Kat Tolentino and Jho Maraguinot played vital roles as they produced 11 markers each. Jules Samonte delivered down the stretch with ten points, while Maddie Madayag had four blocks en route to nine points.

"I guess we relied on our trust with each other," team captain Madayag shared on their key to winning. "We talked about helping each other bounce back when someone commits an error. It's really the teamwork, trust, and confidence that helped us."

UST was leading 17-12 in Set 4 but the Lady Eagles launched an incredible 9-1 run that put them on top by three. Samonte's down-the-line attack started the comeback, followed by a crosscourt conversion by Tolentino. Madayag's blocking was also on point in that stretch with Milena Alessandrini and Dimdim Pacres being rejected on consecutive possessions.

Samonte scored two of the next three points that made it 22-19 in favor of Ateneo. Sisi Rondina tried to rally the Tigresses back but Maraguinot immediately responded with a hammer. Ateneo got to match point off a service error by Caitlin Viray, but a spike by Rondina and a triple block on Maraguinot's attempt allowed UST to come within one, 23-24. De Leon proceeded in unloading a quick kill that prevented the Tigresses from forcing an extension.

"(This win) is really, really important because obviously if we didn't win, it would've been 0-3. It would've been the bottom," De Leon said. "It's really, really good for us, and it's finally a start for us."

Dani Ravena contributed 13 digs and ten receptions as the main libero in the contest, while Deanna Wong tallied 38 excellent sets.

Rondina's 22-point performance went down the drain as UST failed to ride on the momentum of their dominant 25-16 opening set. The Tigresses suffered another blow with libero Rica Rivera sustaining a meniscus tear early in the game.

Ateneo and UST are now tied with identical 1-2 records.