No regrets for Dani as she concludes Ravena era at Ateneo

Dani Ravena is the last Ravena to play in the UAAP after brothers Kiefer and Thirdy. –UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — As the last Ravena to play in the UAAP, Ateneo’s graduating libero Dani Ravena is ending her collegiate career fulfilled after the Blue Eagles’ bronze medal finish in Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament.

As La Salle ended Ateneo’s title reign and its Cinderella run, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23, in their stepladder semifinal match on Thursday, Dani — the last to play for the Blue Eagles after his brothers Kiefer and Thirdy played UAAP basketball — finished her college career without any regrets.

Especially with what the Blue Eagles achieved, having gone from a 0-3 start to a semifinalist against all odds.

“We started from the bottom, literally, 0-3. Our greatest takeaway is the importance of being together despite the doubts about our team. Despite everything we heard that hurt us, we didn’t give in. We held each other’s hands and trust each other,” said the Blue Eagles captain in Filipino after tallying seven digs in her final game.

“And for sure, as Faith (Nisperos) said, it may not be now, but this team will definitely fight until the end for the next years to come. So back to work right after,” she added.

Defending their crown from Season 81 last 2019, Ateneo was surrounded by naysayers after it lost its first three games. 

But the Blue Eagles rose from their lethargic start with coach Oliver Almadro’s adjustments and the leadership of Ravena and Faith Nisperos to reach the stepladder semifinals with an 8-6 record, winning three knockout games from the last elimination game against University of the Philippines, playoff for No.4 against Adamson, and eliminating the No.3 University of Santo Tomas.

Receiving a lot of hate comments isn’t new for the 22-year-old libero, who joined Ateneo in Season 80 during Tai Bundit’s last season.

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE

The youngest Ravena admitted their family has been receiving a lot of negative thoughts from some fans throughout their careers. But that made them stronger as she didn’t let her doubters get under her skin.

“Ewan ko, sa ibang tao baka masaya na sila na finally, ang tagal may Ravena. Ang daming nagsasabi, ang daming issues when it comes to me, especially, and Coach O,” Dani said. “But it makes the journey sweeter. Despite everything they said, we all know the truth. Everyone worked hard and coach O didn’t give up on us and we didn’t give up on our teammates.”

For Ravena, one thing she can be proud of in her collegiate career is staying focused on improving herself, amid the doubts.

“You really don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I remember saying this last championship season. If you will doubt yourself, you will lose. I just really worked hard on myself, whatever happens to the team,” she said

“As an Ate (older sister), I had a different perception now. And I really grew from this experience. Without Coach O and the team’s trust, I won’t achieve these things. A learning experience for me. Definitely, something I will bring as I move forward with my life.”

‘DANI LED US’

Coach Oliver Almadro, Dani Ravena and the Ateneo Blue Eagles huddle for one last time in UAAP Season 84

Coach Oliver Almadro, Dani Ravena and the Ateneo Blue Eagles huddle for one last time in UAAP Season 84. –UAAP PHOTO

Ateneo coach lauded Ravena’s leadership that kept his young team together.

“People may doubt Dani, with me. People may doubt, us together. But we both agreed to keep on working,” Almadro said. “And indeed, the latter part of the season, she’s doing well. And people can’t see what Dani is doing outside the court. She’s really leading the team, she even sacrificed her skills just to lead the team.”

“Dani led us. She really helped us in building this team. I really commend Dani for what she did this season. I’m happy for her, and congratulations to Dani, for bringing us in the Final Four, we’re already happy, because of Dani,” he added.

Seeing her coach still proud of their third place finish filled Ravena with satisfaction in her final UAAP game.

As she leaves these Blue Eagles, who will be led by Nisperos, AC Miner, Jaja Maraguinot, and Roma Doromal next season, the libero captain believes the best is yet to come for her young teammates.

“It’s nice to see that the girls right now, despite being young, they keep on fighting. I’m just proud of the team, proud of where we ended,” she said. “But for sure, all of us, we’re still hungry for more. Definitely, in the years to come, we’ll be back again. You’ll see us.”

“It was a learning experience. So definitely, it will be something that will push them forward to do better in the following seasons.”

Ravena admitted she’s still undecided about what’s next on her career path. But one thing is for sure, she will strive harder to become a better volleyball player.

“Honestly, I’m not yet decided. But, I’m just more eager right now to really work on myself, to be better as a volleyball player. Because this loss of ours, it might hurt a bit, but for me, it gives me more determination, more drive to be better,” Ravena said. “I know that I can do more, I could have done more. But my plan is to train better. Being an athlete doesn’t end in the UAAP.”

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