by Kristel Satumbaga
Games Saturday (The Arena, San Juan City)
8 a.m. – UE vs UP (Men’s)
10 a.m. – FEU vs NU (Men’s)
2 p.m. – UE vs UP (Women’s)
4 p.m. – FEU vs NU (Women’s)
Four teams, led by last season’s bridesmaid Far Eastern University (FEU), begin their title hunt today when UAAP women’s volleyball fires off at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Lady Tamaraws seek a strong start in their 4 p.m. tussle with the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs while University of the East (UE) and University of the Philippines (UP) clash at 2 p.m.
FEU, however, faces an uphill climb this season with the exit of hard-hitting Bernadeth Pons and the absence of opposite hitter Chin-chin Basas due to shoulder injury.
But the Lady Tamaraws are looking at this situation as an opportunity as it will give other players the chance to prove their worth.
Veteran setter Kyle Negrito banners the FEU frontline that is also composed of Jerrili Malabanan, Heather Guino-o and Celine Domingo.
Meanwhile, it will be a fresh start for NU as its parades a mix of young and veteran players and a new mentor in Norman Miguel.
And without its biggest star Jaja Santiago.
Santiago is now competing in a pro league in Japan.
Jasmine Nabor, Roma Doromal and Jorelle Singh are skipping this season for various reasons while Risa Sato won’t suit up due to academic issues.
In the other pairing, UP hopes to draw strength from a successful pre-season campaign where it clinched the Philippine Superliga Collegiate Grand Slam and the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference late last year.
Boasting of a deep lineup, UP coach Godfrey Okumu relies on veteran Tots Carlos to spearhead the squad along with Ayel Estranero, Alyssa Layug, Justine Dorog and Marian Buitre in surpassing last year’s fifth-place finish.
UE, which finished dead last among eight teams with two wins and 12 losses last season, aims for a new beginning with Judith Abil, Kath Arad and Roselle Baliton in front of their assault.
Meanwhile, the anticipated Ateneo-La Salle matchup is set Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Volleyball matches will played on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.