With both teams boasting of prized spikers, the best-of-three title showdown between Ateneo and National University could boil down to defense end as the Shakey’s V-League Season 10 First Conference Finals starts on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Ateneo’s big guns Alyssa Valdez, Jeng Bualee, Rachel Anne Daquis and Fille Cainglet will go up against the daunting NU line up led by Dindin and Jaja Santiago, Myla Pablo and Ako Urdas in the 4 p.m game.
NU climbed back from a 1-0 hole in the semifinals against Adamson after containing the Lady Falcons’ veteran reinforcement Angela Benting in the last two games.
Benting powered Adamson in the first game with her 28-point output but tallied only 13 hits in game two and just 10 points in game three as NU handcuffed the seasoned veteran to book their first ever finals appearance in the league.
But the Lady Bulldogs will have to deal with a new force this time in the persons of MVP candidate Valdez, prolific scorer Bualee and consistent point producers Daquis and Cainglet.
Ateneo on the other hand is not just facing a towering frontline headed by the Santiago sisters, who both stand over six feet tall, but also a wily veteran in setter Rubie De Leon.
De Leon, though not piling up the points for herself in the stat sheets, have been a dominant force for NU’s campaign the entire conference.
“We got her because she’s one of the best setters in the country today and her experience keeps the team together,” NU mentor Edjet Manbayad said of De Leon, who averaged 37 excellent sets in the Lady Bulldogs’ two wins in the semis.
Even Ateneo head coach Roger Gorayeb admits that the witty setter out of the University of Santo Tomas will play a crucial role in the championship series.
“I’ve seen them play and it’s really my conclusion that Rubie will be the key,” Gorayeb said.
Game One of the finals is set to start after the awarding ceremonies for the top individual performers of the conference.
UST meanwhile will battle Adamson for third place. JIM WILSON