By Jerome Lagunzad
(Mall of Asia Arena)
8 a.m. – Adamson vs NU (M)
10 a.m. – La Salle vs UST (M)
2 p.m. – Adamson vs NU (W)
4 p.m. – La Salle vs UST (W)
Without ace setter Jia Morado, powerhouse Ateneo is bracing for a turbulent flight in the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament that gets going this weekend at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After making the finals for the past six seasons, the Lady Eagles will also miss the services of solid hitters Michelle Morente and Kim Gequilana.
The 22-year-old, 5-foot-7 Morado, 22, decided to skip her final year of eligibility in a stunning announcement last May.
Morente, on the other hand, transferred to La Salle after failing to meet Ateneo’s academic requirements while Gequillana has yet to recover from an ACL injury she suffered during a Premier Volleyball League match in the off-season.
Compounding Ateneo’s woes was the report that Thai mentor Tai Bundit had a falling out with other team mainstays, forcing Ateneo school president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, to step in and iron out the differences.
Ateneo has a new captain in Maddie Madayag and can still count on open hitters Jho Maraguinot and Kat Tolentino, and middle blocker Bea de Leon.
Also facing tough odds in its bid to crash the Final Four party is University of Santo Tomas, which won’t have top hitter EJ Laure in its fold due to a chronic right shoulder injury.
Without the 5-foot-9 Laure, who was adjudged the 1st Best Outside Spiker when she suited up for Foton Tornadoes in the PSL All-Filipino Conference last year, UST coach Kungfu Reyes will have to draw more production from veterans Sisi Rondina, Carla Sandoval, Dimdim Pacres and skipper Shanen Palec.
The addition of Fil-Italian Milena Alessandrini, a 6-foot-1 beanpole, could help the Tigresses lessen the blow of middle blocker Ria Meneses’ departure despite having one more year left on her eligibility.