A well-rested Ateneo braces for a fierce showdown with University of Santo Tomas when the two unbeaten teams shoot for the first semifinal berth in the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
The defending champion Eagles have racked up three easy wins, including a pair of sweeps over the San Beda Lions and NCBA Wildcats, to share the Group B lead with the Tigers, who, in contrast, had to eke out a couple of wins via cliffhangers.
After crushing NCBA in three last Aug. 1, UST went through some anxious moments before nipping SBC in five lasrt Aug. 10 then needed another five-setter before foiling University of the Philippines last Wednesday.
But the Tigers are expected to raise the level of their game against the Eagles when they slug it out at 12 noon as the league returns to the San Juan gym in a crucial match in the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Accel as official outfitter.
Marck Espejo, the league’s top spiker with a 63.64 percent success, Paul Koyfman, Alexis Villanueva, setter Joner Polvorosa and Manuel Sumanguid are expected to lead Ateneo’s bid again against UST’s Manuel Medina, Jomaru Amagan, Jireh Buro, skipper Arnold Bautista Jr., Tyrone Carodan and setter Timothy Tajanlangit.
The top two teams after the single round elims in the two-group, six-team field will advance to the crossover Final Four, making each match important.
Despite its loss, UP remains in the thick of things with a 2-1 mark while San Beda, with a 1-2 card, must sweep its last two games and hope Ateneo, UST and UP won’t go over three wins to gain a playoff for the last semis spot.
NCAA champion Perpetual Help, meanwhile, has the inside track for one of the two semis seats in Group A as it swept its first three games with National U, La Salle and Far Eastern U locked in a three-way tie at second with 2-1 slates.
St. Benilde and Philippine Merchant Marine School are virtually out of it all with 0-3 marks.