School pride to fuel showdown of rivals
For Ateneo, a twice-to-beat incentive and payback for its lone defeat this season is at stake—none of which really matter with the Final Four looming. La Salle, on the other hand, is fighting for an outright Final Four berth—not that there’s still doubt the defending champions will book one anyway.
For all the volleyball reasons that will make Saturday’s mammoth showdown between two heated rivals a must-see spectacle, the underlying draw remains the same: School pride.
A crowd divided into blue and green sections is expected to cheer itself hoarse as Ateneo and La Salle collide in Round 2 of their rivalry in UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We shocked them the first time we met them, hopefully we shock them again,” said Ramil de Jesus, coach of the defending champions Lady Spikers.
Ateneo, though, has not lost since the Lady Eagles dropped their first match of the season to their rivals. And they look every bit in shape to capture their first title since the Alyssa Valdez era.
“The important thing for us is to win the very last game of the [elimination round],” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro.
“We should focus on the things that matter,” he added, as he tries to keep his team from getting distracted by the hype of the two schools’ rivalry. “We thank the Lord for this chance and we will push forward with this calling for us.”
“We should have the right motivation at all times,” said Ateneo middle blocker Maddie Madayag. “We should not be complacent because it’s not part of our character.”
Whatever that character is, it will be put to a stern test by the Lady Spikers in the 4 p.m. showdown, which will be preceded by the 2 p.m. duel between Adamson and University of the East.
La Salle has been known to play its best volleyball in the latter stages of the tournament—and it’s never smart to count La Salle out on the basis of early struggles.
“Sometimes the players forget their roles in the team, we have to be 100 percent sure of our roles especially when we are on the court,” added De Jesus, who will rely on the likes of skipper Des Cheng and setter Michelle Cobb.
Ateneo, meanwhile, will be led by the towering trio of Madayag, Bea de leon and Kat Tolentino.
La Salle has reached Final Four 11 straight times, while Ateneo made it to the semifinals 10 times in a row.
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