Archrivals De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University will be disputing the solo lead in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The reigning champions Lady Spikers will face last year’s runners-up Lady Eagles at 4 p.m. right after the match between Far Eastern University (FEU) and University of Santo Tomas (UST) at 2 p.m.
La Salle and Ateneo are currently leading with identical 5-1 records while FEU and University of the Philippines (UP) are sharing the third spot with the same 4-2 cards followed by UST (3-3) and National University (3-3).
La Salle has regained its top form behind the solid games of middle blockers Aduke Ogunsanya and Mary Joy Baron as well as veteran playmaker Kim Fajardo, libero Dawn Macandili and Season 78 Finals Most Valuable Player Kim Dy.
“We’re the defending champions and we need to show the heart of a champion. We need to be consistent and prove that we can still do it (following the departure of key players last season),” said Dy, the team’s top scorer and sixth overall in the league.
Open hitters Desiree Cheng and Ernestine Tiamzon must also contribute to fortify the Lady Spikers’ front line.
But the Lady Eagles are riding on the momentum of a four-game winning streak.
Ateneo’s 17-25, 13-25, 25-19, 29-27 loss to NU two weeks ago served as a wake-up call, enabling the Katipunan-based squad to pile up wins including its 25-14, 25-19, 25-21 demolition of erstwhile leader UP.
Veterans Jhoana Maraguinot and Michelle Morente, the seventh and eighth best scorers in the league, along with Bea De Leon, the league’s top spikers with a 48.94 efficiency rating, will be leading the attack line of the Lady Eagles.
Also expected to strut their wares are rookie Kat Tolentino, middle blocker Maddie Madayag and reigning Best Setter Julia Melissa Morado.
EMIL C. NOGUERA