FEU and UST need a surprise
For a very long time, Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas were the dominant forces of UAAP women’s volleyball. They seemed to recruit the best players and come up every year with a new way of winning.
Then the power shifted dramatically. De La Salle University started getting excellent players like Chie Saet, Michelle Gumabao, Manilla Santos and others and started stringing titles together.
Ateneo then got its own game going after years of dwelling in the cellar. Slowly, the squad recruited better players like high school phenom Alyssa Valdez and crafty setter Jia Morado.
Over the last five years, Ateneo and La Salle have been in the finals, reaching it either through sweeps, stepladder climbs or by using the twice-to-beat advantage they seem to naturally acquire. FEU and UST, meanwhile, have been waiting for a chance to return to the championship.
As difficult as it seems, the opportunity presents itself this season for the Lady Tams and the Tigresses although standing in their paths are top elims finisher Ateneo, with a twice-to-beat edge against FEU, and La Salle, which has that same advantage against UST.
FEU has not beaten Ateneo this year, while the same holds true for the Tigresses against the Taft Avenue six. But the Final Four has offered chances for the lesser lights to shine brightly. Ateneo’s first championship three years ago was crafted along an arduous journey with playoff wins against Adamson, National University and then La Salle. The Lady Eagles barely made it to the Final Four that year.
The key for UST and FEU is not to just receive, block or attack with consistency in the Final Four. They need something special, a player or an intangible that will give Ateneo and La Salle something to think about.
The La Salle-Ateneo match at the end of the eliminations revealed the importance of the reserve players since the pressure of a protracted battle could tell on the starting line-ups. A virtually unknown bench warmer could spring the biggest surprises because of the talent and energy she brings to the fray.
There also has to be steely resolve on the part of FEU and UST that they can compete against Ateneo and La Salle, especially when the offense of those two teams kicks into very high gear.
It won’t be easy to boot out the Lady Eagles and the Lady Spikers from their annual finals date but enthusiastic contenders could spring a surprise to spoil the party.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.