MAKING his Finals’ debut, Far Eastern University coach George Pascua simply has two words to sum up its week-long preparation against De La Salle.
“They’re ready,” said Pascua on the eve of the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball championship series.
Two of the most successful programs in the league, the Lady Tamaraws and the Lady Spikers open their best-of-three duel at 4 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
FEU is eyeing to end a 10-year championship drought, as Pascua, who won four crowns as men’s coach, is very vocal of reviving his team’s old glory by winning title No. 30.
Drawing strength from long-time mentor Ramil de Jesus’ tried and tested system, De La Salle is gunning for a third consecutive diadem and 11th overall.
Both the Lady Tamaraws and the Lady Spikers have deep benches, which will be a key factor in case the series goes into full route.
Aside from Bernadeth Pons, Ced Domingo, Heather Guino-o, Chin-Chin Basas and Nette Villareal, FEU also has Cza Carandang, service specialist Carly Hernandez and Jerrili Malabanan, who despite her dwindling court time this season has responded well when she is called upon by Pascua, to lean on.
Already potent with Kim Kianna Dy, Desiree Cheng, Majoy Baron, Aduke Ogunsanya and Tim Tiamzon, De La Salle can count on reserves Norielle Ipac, May Luna, Arianne Layug and CJ Saga if someone from De Jesus’ starters stumble in the game.
The series will also boil down on who will orchestrate the offense well for both squads.
Michelle Cobb, the Lady Spikers sophomore setter who was able to fill the huge gap left by Kim Fajardo, will be tested in the big stage, while playmakers Gel Cayuna and Kyle Negrito will take turns setting up the Lady Tamaraws’ plays.
Aside from its vast championship experience, De La Salle’s biggest edge is it has multi-awarded libero Dawn Macandili, who will do whatever it takes just to keep the ball in play.
But FEU has Pons, who aside from her usual offensive production has been also solid in digging and reception to compliment liberos Buding Duremdes and Kyla Atienza.
The last time the two squads met in the Finals was in 2008-09 season when the Lady Spikers rallied from a 0-1 series deficit to upend the Lady Tamaraws in three games.
In the men’s division, four-peat seeking Ateneo and National University, facing off for the fifth straight Finals, begin their own best-of-three showdown at 12 noon.
The Marck Espejo-led Blue Eagles will enter the championship round as underdogs against the Bulldogs, who are aching to reclaim the crown they took in the 2013-14 season.
Tickets for today’s championship doubleheader are sold separately.