Ateneo eyes payback vs La Salle | Inquirer Sports

Ateneo eyes payback vs La Salle

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 12:42 AM April 24, 2017

Ateneo Lady Eagles. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Ateneo Lady Eagles. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

With its top hitter returning to form, Ateneo took care of business with an impressive 25-22, 25-10, 16-25, 26-24 triumph over Far Eastern U on Sunday to book a sixth straight finals appearance opposite fierce rival La Salle in the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Jho Maraguinot, sidelined in the last two games of the elimination round due to a knee injury, got Ateneo going in the first two sets and finished with 14 hits, while Bea De Leon, Michelle Morente and Jia Morado sustained their solid play for the top-seeded Lady Eagles.

Just like the Lady Spikers, who needed four sets to eliminate 15-time winner University of Santo Tomas Tigresses on Saturday, the Lady Eagles also had their share of struggles in putting away the Lady Tamaraws.

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“We’re just happy to be back in the finals because not a lot of people expected this,” said Morado.

The Lady Eagles, Seasons 76 and 77 champions over their archrivals, were uncharacteristically sloppy in the third set and nearly lost steam after taking an early lead in the fourth, where the Lady Tamaraws rallied from 4-10 down to gain set point at 24-23 on Jeanete Villareal’s hit.

But Anna Gopico saved the FEU set point and Heather Guino-o committed an error, before Morente wrapped up the win with a kill off the block.

It was only fitting that Morente finished off the match for the Lady Eagles as she sat out last season to focus on academics. She had 16 points, on top of 15 digs, while De Leon added 12, including three blocks.

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With superstar Alyssa Valdez graduating after its finals loss to La Salle last year, there were doubts if Ateneo could retain its lofty status in the league, with FEU, National U, University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas keeping its core from last season.

But the Lady Eagles grew from strength-to-strength as the season wore on, coming up with one gutsy performance after another, including a sweep of their two elimination round games against the Lady Spikers.

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FEU nursed hopes of an upset after pushing Ateneo to the limit in their two elimination-round meetings.

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TAGS: Ateneo Lady Eagles, UAAP Season 79

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