Ateneo seeks to solidify its hold of the No. 1 spot against University of the Philippines at 4 p.m. today, Saturday in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Eagles won their first meeting, 25-21, 25-15, 28-26, but not without surviving a huge Lady Maroons scare in the third set last March 10.
With a 7-1 record, Ateneo is slowly pulling away from the rest of the field, while UP is sporting a 5-3 card and is locked in a tight battle with three other teams trying to stay within the top four range.
UP coach Godfrey Okumu remains upbeat that the Lady Maroons can handle the tremendous pressure and halt the Lady Eagles’ seven-match winning run in the “Battle of Katipunan”.
“Is this the peak of UP? No. I still feel there’s more to come,” said Okumu after his team toppled defending champion De La Salle for the second time this season last Sunday.
“We still can play better. It’s just a matter of time,” he added.
The Lady Maroons seemed to have learned from their low points in the tournament.
“I believe so that we’re mentally stronger. We had our fair share of misfortunes coming through to the first round, that we’re happy that 13 of us are here today,” said Okumu.
“We are learning from these kind of situations and then I believe mentally we’re growing. And, if we have the same mentality towards the next games, I think the results will favor us,” he added.
All eyes are now on Ateneo on how it will sustain its impressive run, as coach Oliver Almadro is simply looking forward on what lies on the table.
“We don’t want to think of the 7-1 record,” said Almadro.
Far Eastern University, meanwhile, hopes to do well without injured open spiker Lycha Ebon when it plays struggling University of the East at 2 p.m.
Ebon remains under evaluation after going down with a knee injury in last Sunday’s five-set win over Adamson University.
The Lady Tamaraws’ middle hitter Nette Villareal, meanwhile, is recovering from a minor ankle sprain but will most likely suit up against the Lady Warriors.
FEU is currently tied with UP in fourth place with a 5-3 record.
Coach George Pascua wants the rest of the Lady Tamaraws to respond to the challenge, especially with the injuries that hit the team.
“Sabi ko nga sa mga players, kailangan kung wala ‘yung isa, kailangan andoon pa rin sila. Kumbaga, maglalaro sila dahil gusto nila na tulungan ‘yung kasama nila. Hindi ‘yung nawala na, tapos mawawala pa. Mas masakit yung mararamdaman noong na-injure na gustong mag-laro pa,” said Pascua.
In the men’s division, titleholder National University stakes its hold of the top spot against Ateneo at 10 a.m. right after the Adamson University-UP match at 8 a.m.