THE National University Lady Bulldogs face the rookie laden Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles as heavy favorites to rule the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference.
The rivals, who also squared off for this same title last year, clash 6.p.m. at the Philsports Arena in Pasig tonight.
NU advanced to the finals after leaning on the heroics of Jaja Santiago to beat University of the Philippines, 21-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-21.
The 6-5 Santiago was in top form despite playing her second game of the day after leading the losing stand of Foton Pilipinas in the Asian Volleyball Club Championship earlier in the day.
Santiago pumped in 19 kills, including the clincher to cap the sweep over UP in their best-of-three Final Four series.
The over-achieving Lady Eagles on the other hand rallied from a big deficit in the fourth set then pounced on Far Eastern U’s meltdown to post a 25-23, 24-26, 25-19, 25-23 victory last Wednesday.
Ateneo, which lost Alyssa Valdez who already completed her varsity playing years, will be even more hard-pressed to defeat formidable NU this time around.
Ateneo’s Bea de Leon and Kim Gequillana stepped up and combined for 26 attack points while skipper Michelle Morente, Ana Gopico, Julia Morado, Julianne Samonte and Pauline Gaston backed them up with superb all-around games to clinch the victory for the over-achieving Lady Eagles.
The Lady Bulldogs frustrated the then Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles in a rubber match to nail their second collegiate crown in the league backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter.
Game One of the best-of-three title series starts today along with Game Two of the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference Finals, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
With Valdez cheering her former teammates from the sidelines, the Lady Eagles battled back from six-points down in the fourth to foil the Lady Tams’ bid to send the match to a fifth set.
De Leon turned in a solid outing and finished with 20 hits while Morente, now taking the lead role for a depleted, young squad, put in a 15-point game. Gequillana added 12 markers while Gopico chipped in 10 points.
The tenacious Lady Eagles have exceeded all expectations. They survived a series of knockout games to snare the last semifinal berth and then upended the top seeded FEU side in the Final Four.
It didn’t hurt Ateneo that Pons failed to see action in the two Final Four games after sustaining an ankle injury during pre-game warm-up in Game One.
Toni Rose Basas and Mary Joy Palma, along with Celine Domingo, Jerrili Malabanan, Kyle Negrito, Anne Guino-o and Jeanette Villareal carried the fight for the Lady Tams, who looked headed to sending the match into a decider after controlling the early going of the fourth.
But they cracked in the face of the Lady Eagles’ fiery comeback and the Loyola-based school found itself back in the title hunt with an underwhelming roster that seemed uncertain of even getting it past the eliminations.
For NU veteran Jorelle Singh backed Santiago with 16 points, including 12 kills and three aces. Aiko Urdas chipped in 14 points and Joy Doromal and Risa Sato combined for 15 hits.
The Lady Bulldogs also pounced on their rivals’ poor service reception as they punched in 15 aces.
Diana Carlos and Nicole Tiamzon shot 14 points apiece for UP, which also drew 11 markers from Isa Molde. But the Lady Maroons failed to sustain their own fightback in the third and fourth sets.
Setter Jasmine Nabor was outstanding as she produced 49 excellent sets while adding three hits.
10 a.m. – La Salle vs UST (S Turf)
12 noon – Ateneo vs NU (S Turf)
4 p.m. – UP vs FEU (best-of-3 for 3rd)
6 p.m. – Ateneo vs NU (best-of-3 for title)
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