Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University guns for a first-round sweep when it faces De La Salle University today in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
The much-awaited Lady Eagles-Lady Spikers game is at 4:30 p.m. while the other match between Adamson University and winless University of the East (UE) while be played at 12:30 p.m.
Ateneo holds the solo lead with a clean 6-0 record.
But two-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez admitted playing against the Lady Spikers this time is totally different compared last year when they swept La Salle in the finals.
“Mas kumpleto ngayon ang La Salle kumpara noong nakalaban namin sila last year. They really have a good system at talagang ready rin sila every game,” said Valdez, who is currently ranked No. 2 in scoring, and third in attacks and service area.
The Lady Eagles, the most balance team this season, enjoy solid games from middle hitters Maddie Madayag and Bea De Leon, open hitter Jhoana Maraguinot, opposite spiker Amy Ahomiro and setter Jia Morado, who are contributing both on offense and defense.
La Salle, for its part, remained formidable having veteran middle blocker Mika Reyes, returning Ara Galang, playmaker Kim Fajardo and vastly-improved Mary Joy Baron.
The Lady Spikers are occupying the solo second spot with 4-1. They lost to National University (NU) in four sets (16-25, 24-26, 25-14, 23-25) on February 10 but bounced back immediately with a couple of victories against Adamson and UE.
Stop Valdez will be the game plan of the Lady Spikers.
“Si Valdez talagang asset ng Ateneo. Malakas talaga sila kaya kailangan naming sabayan yung galaw nila sa court. Kailangan rin naming mabawasan ang errors namin,” stressed La Salle mentor Ramil De Jesus.
In the men’s division, University of Santo Tomas takes on Adamson at 8 a.m. while reigning titlist Ateneo battles NU at 10 a.m.
EMIL C. NOGUERA