DEFENDING champion Ateneo de Manila University guns for the first finals slot when it faces a dangerous University of the Philippines (UP) in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 women’s volleyball Final Four at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Lady Eagles-Lady Maroons game is at 4 p.m.
Ateneo finished the elimination round with a 12-2 card to claim the top seeding and the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
The Lady Eagles need one more win to advance to the finals for the fifth-straight time.
Two-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez will be the nucleus of Ateneo’s offense along with power hitting open spiker Jhoana Maraguinot and middle blockers Bea De Leon and Amy Ahomiro.
“It’s totally different in the Final Four as all four teams are expected to level up. We’re now on the final stretch of the tournament kaya all-out na. We just need to play happy and stay focused,” said Valdez.
Utility Kim Gequillana must also contributed while libero Gizelle Tan will play vital role in bringing a perfect ball to setter Jia Morado, who will be running the plays.
UP, however, is one of the two teams that beat Ateneo this season.
Early in the second round, the Lady Maroons posted a 19-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-22 upset victory over the Lady Eagles with rookies Isa Molde and Diana Carlos leading the charge.
“Hopefully, maging maganda ang laro ng mga bata, hindi sila ma-pressure,” said UP mentor Jerry Yee.
Veteran open spiker Nicole Tiamzon, middle hitter Katherine Bersola and setter Jewel Lai are also expected to provide the needed backup.
The Lady Maroons made it to the Final Four with an 8-6 card.
The other Final Four pairing between second seed and twice-to-beat holder De La Salle University and No. 3 Far Eastern University will be played on Sunday at the same venue.
Meanwhile, Ateneo will be facing UP in their own men’s Final Four game at 2 p.m.
Elimination topnotcher Ateneo holds a twice-to-beat edge against UP.
Games today (MOA Arena)
2pm UP vs Ateneo (m)
4pm UP vs Ateneo (w)