Keys to Victory: UST-La Salle Final 4 match-up
University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle have both proven to be fully capable of winning titles, besides the two schools own a combined 24 UAAP volleyball championships.
Before the Golden Tigresses and the Lady Spikers get to the finals they both have to eliminate one of each other first in the Final Four.
As the league’s second seeds, La Salle owns a twice-to-beat advantage over the third-seeded UST but the Golden Tigresses are hell-bent on retrieving a lost glory.
UST’s 15 titles puts it as the second-winningest team in UAAP women’s volleyball history behind Far Eastern University, which has 29, but La Salle is not far behind with nine, good for third place of the championship ladder.
La Salle, though, is the latest winner of the big trophy having won the title in Season 78 while UST has failed to enter the Final Four since Season 74.
As intangible as it may be, the sensation of winning the title is what all the teams in the league aspire for.
“We won’t settle for less, everyone wants to be a champion and we’re part of that,” said UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes. “We’ll dream big.”
If there’s ever an iconic matchup in the series between UST and La Salle, it has to be the middle blockers.
Ria Meneses and Mary Joy Baron are the premier middle blockers in the league having earned the Best Blocker distinction in Season 77 and 78, respectively.
“Ria is one of the best blockers in the league and that distinction is on her shoulders,” said Reyes. “Baron is also one of the best, and they will have to duke it out in the semis.”
Team-wise, however, La Salle has the upper hand in terms of blocking with the Lady Spikers averaging a league-best 2.33 kill blocks per set while UST sits at seventh with a 1.48 average.
Avoiding the fear of Fajardo
Kim Fajardo, arguably, is the greatest setter of her generation and if there’s ever a playmaker that can hurt a team in so many ways it has to be her.
This is Fajardo’s last hoorah in the UAAP and Reyes is well aware of the capacity of the iconic setter.
“Once we start getting afraid of Kim, we’re screwed,” said Reyes. “So we shouldn’t fear her, she may have the advantage in height, of course experience, probably decision-making, but everything will depend on the first ball.”
Fajardo, outside of University of the East’s Roselle Baliton, is the tallest setter in the league standing a cool 5’8” and that height makes her a threat, not only in playmaking, but in the net as well.
On the flanks
There’s no denying that UST has arguable the most potent scoring duo in the league in Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure.
Both average almost 24 points a game, but that production means that the two are responsible for more than half of UST’s offense.
La Salle, though, does not own any 20-point scorers but it has several players who constantly produce in the 10-point region.
Kim Kianna Dy is the team’s highest scorer with a 13.5 average, a far-cry from the Thomasian duo’s production.
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