Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University will begin their championship showdown today in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 women’s volleyball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Game 1 of the Ateneo-La Salle series is at 3:30 p.m. with the Lady Eagles holding a thrice-to-beat advantage for sweeping the elimination round.
“I already have a game plan for La Salle team. I trained my player. I tell them to play happy, heart strong,” said Ateneo’s Thai mentor Tai Bundit.
Ateneo last played on February 17 but the long layoff won’t be a factor according to team manager Tony Liao as the Lady Eagles went through a series of tuneup games against top club teams including Philippine Superliga champion Petron and Shakey’s V-League former titlist Philippine Army.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez will be the center of the Lady Eagles’ offense along with middle hitters Bea De Leon and Amy Ahomiro as well as outside hitters Ella De Jesus and Michelle Morente. Setter Jia Morado and libero Denden Lazaro will also play major roles in their title-retention bid.
La Salle, on the other hand, suffered a major blow after skipper Ara Galang sustained Anterior Cruciate Ligament/Medial Collateral Ligament, medial meniscus tears and bone bruises during their semifinal match against National University on Saturday.
“Siguro mas magiging motivated kami. Lalaban pa kami para kay Ara,” La Salle middle spiker Mika Reyes said.
Galang was the team’s top scorer, averaging 20 plus points per game. She nailed 25 points in their 26-24, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21 win over NU.
Reyes must step up big time for La Salle along with Cyd Demecillo, Desiree Cheng, Mary Joy Baron, Justine Tiu, Christine Soyud, Carol Ann Cerveza and Kim Fajardo.
“Season is not yet done. I won’t be able to play for the finals with my team but will surely be with them spiritually. I still believe with my team,” Galang posted on her Insta-gram account.