by Jerome Lagunzad
Still licking the wounds of its painful exit in the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament, perennial contender Ateneo suffered yet another big blow as Thai coach Anusorn “Tai” Bundit bid goodbye to the Lady Eagles.
“End of contract,” Bundit said when asked if he called the shots for one last time in Ateneo’s 25-20, 25-21, 14-25, 25-19 loss to host Far Eastern University in their Final Four encounter last Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The stunning development capped a turbulent flight for the Lady Eagles, who had an initial falling out with Bundit in the off-season just when they were dealing with the exit of ace setter Jia Morado and utility spiker Michelle Morente.
While the search for the next Ateneo mentor is on, the Lady Eagles will also have to fill up the big shoes left by top scorer Jhoana Maraguinot who also expressed her desire not to suit up for them next season.
“I have one more season of eligibility but I think I’m done,” said the graduating Maraguinot, who paced the third-ranked Lady Eagles with 11 points against the second-seeded Lady Tamaraws.
Maraguinot also expressed his gratitude to Bundit.
“Hindi naman ako ganito maglaro and hindi rin naman ganito ‘yung character ko. Pero noong hinandle kami ni Coach Tai, tinuro niya sa amin ‘yung ‘heartstrong (mantra),’ na hindi ka pwede sumuko hanggat hindi pa tapos,” she said.
The Lady Eagles could also lose middle blocker Bea De Leon, who is set to forego her final year of eligibility.
But none of those losses could be bigger than Bundit’s after the Thai coach led Ateneo to back-to-back titles in Seaons 76 and 77 followed up by a pair of runner-up finishes in Season 78 and 79.
“We did good already. We have a new setter (in Deanna Wong), we have a new libero (in Ponggay Gaston). Top 4 is very good for me already,” said Bundit, who plans to fly home to Thailand before his return to lead Creamline’s title bid in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference next month.