Ateneo tossers eye 1st crown; NU vs La Salle in KO tiff
MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo has all the reasons to stay confident as the Blue Eagles go for a historic first men’s volleyball championship, while the Lady Eagles await for a Finals contender in La Salle or National University in women’s action of the UAAP Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
With reigning MVP Marck Espejo coming off a season-best performance, the Eagles shoot for a sweep of defending champion NU Bulldogs in Game 2 of the best-of-three men’s title series at 2 p.m.
La Salle and NU, meanwhile, battle for the last title berth in a knockout semifinal duel at 4 p.m., where the winner will take on unbeaten Ateneo in the women’s championship series next week.
“I hope we sustain our level of play,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. “We can’t relax. NU will come out stronger.”
The Eagles trounced the Bulldogs in Game 1, 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22, where Espejo exploded for 31 points.
While the Bulldogs fight for survival, the Lady Bulldogs hope to complete their upset of the No. 2 Lady Spikers in the last game of the stepladder semifinals.
“The players are full of confidence,” said NU coach Roger Gorayeb as his Lady Bulldogs try to overcome the twice-to-beat advantage of the Lady Spikers.
“Whatever happens, I’m proud of my players,” added Gorayeb, who quickly turned the Lady Bulldogs’ fortunes around after taking over mid-season.
The third-ranked Lady Bulldogs stunned the the Lady Spikers in straight sets, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19, last Wednesday to forge a winner-take-all match.
NU stars Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo were at the helm, but Desiree Dadang, Rizza Mandapat and rookie Jorelle Singh also stepped up to help the Lady Bulldogs win their second straight do-or-die game after also stopping No. 4 Far Eastern U.
If the Lady Spikers reach the Finals for the seventh straight time, they will be pitted against the Lady Eagles in the title round for the fourth straight season.
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