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La Salle, Ateneo face off

by Kristel Satumbaga

Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
12 noon – Ateneo vs NU (m)
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs La Salle (w)

La Salle’s Kim Dy (left) goes for the kill against Kat Tolentino of Ateneo during their UAAP match last April 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Both teams start their title series today. (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

La Salle’s Kim Dy (left) goes for the kill against Kat Tolentino of Ateneo during their UAAP match last April 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Both teams start their title series today. (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

New heroes are expected to come out in the latest finals duel between archrivals Ateneo and La Salle as their best-of-three series for the UAAP women’s volleyball crown unfolds today in front of an expected capacity crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With stars like Alyssa Valdez and Mika Reyes, among others, reduced into spectators after ending their collegiate careers last season, it is a perfect opportunity for the current crop of Lady Eagles and the Lady Spikers to shine in the league’s grandest stage.

That opportunity starts at 4 p.m. in the sixth consecutive meeting between the biggest rivals in the local collegiate sports scene that began in 2012 when big matches at The Arena in San Juan were the norm.

La Salle began the series of duels with masterful victories over Ateneo in 2012 and 2013 before Valdez and the rest of the Lady Eagles turned the tide to claim their own version of back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.

More than 15,000 spectators are likely to fill the Big Dome to the rafters, with Ateneo entering the court as favorites after claiming the top seed in the eliminations aided by two victories over the defending champion La Salle side.

Not even the departures of Valdez and Amy Ahomiro lessened the might of the Lady Eagles, who went 12-2 in the elims, including 26-24, 26-24, 21-25, 25-17 and 12-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19 victories over the Lady Spikers.

“Wala namang pagbabago even if we are facing La Salle for the sixth time. And we’re treating this matchup like any other team that we faced this year kasi this season, malalakas talaga yung teams,” said setter Jia Morado, whose team reached the finals after a 25-22, 25-10, 16-25, 26-24 triumph over Far Eastern University in the Final Four last April 23.

Morado, who has emerged not only as team captain but also the most efficient player on the Ateneom side, hopes to gain enough support from Jho Maraguinot, Kat Tolentino, Bea de Leon, libero Gizelle Tan, Jules Samonte and Michelle Morente.

But La Salle is unfazed.

Like Ateneo, the Lady Spikers are also without key players Reyes and Ara Galang.

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