De La Salle University will start its title retention bid against University of Santo Tomas (UST) when the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament unfolds on February 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The La Salle-UST game is at 4 p.m. after the tussle between title contenders National University (NU) and Adamson University at 2 p.m.
The Lady Spikers will be playing without top setter Kim Fajardo, who already used up her five-year eligibility in the league.
But La Salle is still a force to reckon with, as most of its players were members of the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers that ruled the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix last year.
Reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player (MVP) Majoy Baron will banner the squad along with Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Kiana Dy and Season 79 Finals MVP Desiree Cheng.
Joining them are open spiker Tin Tiamzon, middle hitter Aduke Ogunsanya and former PSL MVP Dawn Macandili, known as one of the country’s top liberos.
The Tigresses, on the other hand, will be missing the services of top spiker EJ Laure and middle hitter Ria Meneses.
Laure is recuperating from a shoulder injury while Meneses opted to forgo her final year with the España-based squad.
Leading the charge for the Tigresses are power-hitting Cherry Ann Rondina and opposite spiker Dimdim Pacres—both veterans of commercial leagues—while Carla Sandoval, Christine Francisco, Alina Bicar and team captain Shannen Palec are expected to provide the needed back up.
NU also has a strong chance this year having the most solid lineup.
National mainstay Jaja Santiago, Filipino-Japanese Risa Sato, Aiko Urdas, Audrey Paran, Jorelle Singh and prized setter Jasmine Nabor are back for the Lady Bulldogs, who will be mentored by Babes Castillo.
Leading the Lady Falcons are Gema Galanza, Fenela Emnas, Mylene Paat, May Roque and former La Salle player Christine Soyud.
After the opening day, the tournament resumes on February 4 at the same venue with University of the Philippines battling University of the East at 2 p.m. and last season’s runner-up Ateneo de Manila University facing Far Eastern University at 4 p.m.