A FIERCE rivalry will be refueled as Ateneo and La Salle clash in Game 1 of their much-anticipated UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball championship series at 4 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Eagles and the Lady Spikers cross paths for the sixth straight time in the tournament’s biggest stage—with the former eyeing to regain the throne and the latter eyeing for a back-to-back.
In the men’s division, three-peat seeking Ateneo, playing for the first time in 23 days after completing a double-round elimination sweep, takes on National University in the Finals’ opener at 12 noon.
The Lady Eagles looked superb as the two-time champions topped the eliminations with a 12-2 record.
Ateneo, whose losses came against National University twice in the eliminations, then toppled Far Eastern University in the Final Four to qualify in the best-of-three title round for the sixth consecutive season.
De La Salle will try to beat Ateneo without two of its aces in graduates Ara Galang and Mika Reyes.
True enough, the Lady Spikers have encountered humps early in the elims but the Taft-based squad was able to hurdle everything by finishing second with 11-3 record.
De La Salle then overcame University of Santo Tomas in the other semifinals pairing to advance in the Finals for the ninth straight season, keeping its quest for a 10th crown alive.
The Lady Eagles prevailed over the Lady Spikers twice, 24-26, 24-26, 25-21, 17-25, in the first round, and 12-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19, in the second round, with Michelle Morente rising on both occasions.
The 5’7” Morente gave the Lady Spikers a lot of headaches on offense and defense, as she scored and collected a combined 41 points and 34 digs in those twin Lady Eagles wins.
“I think better kami this year kasi distributed ang bola when it comes to setting,” said Morente. “Si Jia, nadi-distribute niya.”
Aside from Morente, the Lady Eagles have their usual starters Jho Maraguinot, Bea de Leon and Kat Tolentino, as well as Maddie Madayag, Kim Gequillana and Ana Gopico, who can respond once they are called by coach Tai Bundit.
De La Salle committed a lot of errors in those losses, giving Ateneo 31 free points in the first round and 36 in the second round, a thing coach Ramil de Jesus wants to correct in the Finals.
The Lady Spikers’ edge is obviously their blocking, where Majoy Baron and first year player Aduke Ogunsanya can dominate, as well as Kim Fajardo’s ability to trick her opponents in crucial stages by spiking aside from her splendid setting.
Of course, Ateneo’s main worry is De La Salle libero Dawn Macandili, who works hard by keeping the ball in play by weathering the Lady Eagles’ attacks.
“Nai-inspire ‘yung team ‘pag nakikita na halos nagpapakamatay na siya sa bola,” said De Jesus on Macandili.
The Lady Spikers can also count on last season’s Finals MVP Kim Dy, Desiree Cheng and Tin Tiamzon on offense.
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
12 noon – ADMU vs NU
4 p.m. – ADMU vs DLSU