by Kristel Satumbaga
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
12 noon – NU vs FEU (men’s)
4 p.m. – UST vs Ateneo (women’s)
University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo start their championship series today when they clash in Game 1 of the UAAP women’s volleyball finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Match is at 4 p.m. with both teams eager to reclaim their glory, with the Tigresses seeking to end a 10-year title drought.
If successful, the Tigresses will clinch their 15th title while the Lady Eagles hope to return on top after losing the crown three years back.
Both teams are high in spirits particularly UST, which booked its first finals appearance for the first time since 2010 by ousting three-time champion La Salle in their Final Four affair.
Drawing inspired game from rookie sensation Eya Laure, the España-based spiker scored a pulsating 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10 win over the Lady Spikers.
The Tigresses came into the game with sky-high confidence they did not have to use their twice-to-beat bonus for finishing the elims at No. 2 in their series with the Lady Spikers.
Ateneo, for its part, needed to exercise its twice-to-beat semifinal privilege against Far Eastern University, beating the Lady Tamaraws in the knockout match, 25-20 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, to march into the final round.
For graduating UST top spiker Sisi Rondina, the only way to repay the school for helping her achieved her dreams is to rebuild the school’s dynasty.
The school’s last championship came under then mentor Shaq delos Santos and bannered by Rhea Dimaculangan.
“Lahat ng mga nakuha ko sa buhay ko, dahil sa UST. Who would have taught na andito na kami?” said Rondina, who is cinch to winthe Most Valuable Player award.
But the job is not yet done.
“Dito na talaga masusukat eh. Ilalaban na namin hanggang dulo,” said Laure, who is expected to come out sizzling once again after a career-high 25-point output against La Salle in the semis.
Laure hopes to add the team title to her Rookie of the Year award.
Cohesion, according to UST mentor Kungfu Reyes, is key to their success that’s why he challenged his wards not to stay focused and avoid the mistakes they committed the last time.
They fell into 41 errors in their game against La Salle – reason why the Taft-based squad managed to forced a deciding fifth set.
For Ateneo, this is the chance to bring back the crown to Katipunan.
With ace spiker Alyssa Valdez at the helm, the Lady Eagles won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
Like Rondina, graduating Ateneo blocker Bea de Leon is not contended of just playing in the finals. She wants to end her collegiate career in a blaze of glory.
“Of course, we’re thankful that we brought Ateneo back in the finals, but there’s still one more job left,” said De Leon.
Out to provide solid defense against UST’s spikers apart from De Leon are Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino.
Game 2 is on May 15 while Game 3, if necessary, is on May 18.