VOLLEYBALL

Rivals La Salle, Ateneo begin championship showdown

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Defending champion De La Salle University and last year’s runner-up Ateneo de Manila University kick off their best of-three championship showdown today in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

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The Game 1 of the highly anticipated La Salle-Ateneo game is at 4 p.m. while Ateneo and National University will also begin their best-of-three series in the men’s division at 12 noon.

La Salle made it to the finals by ousting University of Santo Tomas while Ateneo blasted Far Eastern University in their respective Final Four games.

Season 78 Finals Most valuable Player (MVP) Kim Kianna Dy will be leading the front line of the Lady Spikers along with middle hitters Mary Joy Baron and Aduke Ogunsanya, outside hitters Tin Tiamzon and Desiree Cheng, FIVB Women’s World Championship veteran Kim Fajardo and Philippine Superliga MVP Dawn Macandili.

“As a team, we’re confident going into the finals. We’re the defending champions and we’re determined to retain the crown but we need to work hard to get it,” said Baron.

Ateneo owns a 2-0 edge against the La Salle this season.

And expect open spiker Jhoana Maraguinot to go all-out along with Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, Michelle Morente, Kat Tolentino and setter Jia Morado.

This will be the sixth straight La Salle-Ateneo finals with the Lady Spikers holding a 3-2 advantage in their match up.

The Taft-based squad won in their first meeting in Season 74 with outside spiker Cha Cruz earning the Finals MVP.

La Salle duplicated that feat in Season 75, this time behind the solid effort of Michele Gumabao who towed the Lady Spikers to a 2-0 series win.

But Ateneo, powered by powerhitting Alyssa Valdez, ended its title-drought by claiming back-to-back titles in seasons 76 and 77.

La Salle, however, bring the glory days back in Season 78 that served as a fitting gift to graduating players Ara Galang, Mika Reyes and Cyd Demecillo.

EMIL C. NOGUERA

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