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Ateneo, NU brace for UAAP title defense


Women’s champion Ateneo de Manila University and men’s ruler National University (NU) are bracing for tough title-retention campaigns in the upcoming Season 82 University Athletic Association (UAAP) volleyball tournaments set to fire off on February 15.

Ateneo will parade a mix of veterans and rookies as they gun for a second consecutive crown and fourth overall.

With the graduation of last season’s Finals MVP Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag and Kim Gequillana, seasoned coach Oliver Almadro will bank on Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston and Jho Maraguinot to lead the Lady Eagles’ championship repeat bid.

UAAP women’s volleyball coaches pose for a photo during the first-ever press conference for the league’s volleyball tournaments on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Returning setter Jamie Lavitoria and sophomore Jaja Maraguinot will fill the void left by Dina Wong, who is out of the season due to an injury, while rookie sensation Faith Nisperos will be tabbed to contribute big.

“We know that this year will probably be the most competitive season,” said Almadro. “We prepared as a whole and of course we’ll prepare one game at a time.”

Ateneo will immediately take on archrival De La Salle University to open its campaign on Sunday.

Last year’s runner-up University of Santo Tomas will remain as a threat despite the graduation of Sisi Rondina while Far Eastern University (FEU) and University of the Philippines will crowd the top with their near-intact lineups.

In the men’s side, NU will need to fill the hole left by last season’s MVP Bryan Bagunas, Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura as they eye a three-peat and fifth overall.

“Of course, we want to win the championship again. This is our second chance at a three-peat. I told my players that we have to get it this time,” said national team coach and NU mentor Dante Alinsunurin.

National squad standouts Joshua Retamar and Ricky Marcos will spearhead the fight for the Bulldogs, who are expected to meet stiff challenges from finals foe FEU, Ateneo and La Salle.

The UAAP will implement a new schedule featuring a men’s match in the afternoon and introduce the video challenge system.

UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag also assured that “it’s all systems go” for the league’s second semester sports despite the threats of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) outbreak.

“We’re day-to-day and closely monitoring developments,” said Saguisag. “We’re prepared to face this situation. Rest assured, the UAAP is committed to ensuring the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, officials. Nothing comes more important than everybody’s health.”


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