The rivalry between the DLSU Lady Spikers and the ADMU Lady Eagles is perhaps one of the reasons why the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament has achieved so much popularity nowadays compared to the years before.
For two straight years, the Lady Spikers denied the Lady Eagles’ attempt to take the championship when they faced each other in the UAAP finals from Season 74 to Season 75. However, Season 76 was a totally different story.
Ateneo makes history
The Lady Eagles entered last season ready for a rebuilding stage as they lost their “Fab Five” and had a new head coach in the person of Anusorn “Ty” Bundit from Thailand. On the other hand, the Lady Spikers had a powerhouse cast with a line-up of star players led by then-team captain Abigail Maraño. Under the guidance of long-time head coach Ramil De Jesus, La Salle was favored to win a rare four-peat championship.
Sweeping the elimination round, the Lady Spikers automatically qualified for the finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage while Ateneo had to go through the wire to make another finals appearance. The Katipunan-based volleybelles surprisingly snapped La Salle’s 16-game winning streak in Game One of the Finals. Game Two belonged to the Lady Spikers but in a sudden turn of events, Ateneo was able to dismantle their thrice-to-beat advantage. In Game Four, the Lady Eagles swept the Lady Spikers to claim their very first women’s volleyball title in the UAAP. Ateneo star player and current team captain Alyssa Valdez was hailed as the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) as well as the season MVP.
From champions to challengers
La Salle’s loss to Ateneo in the finals last season was one of the biggest upsets in UAAP Women’s Volleyball history. Aside from failing to win their fourth straight championship, Lady Spikers team captain Maraño was not able to win another championship in her last playing year in the league, which made the defeat even more painful for the entire team.
This UAAP season, the Taft-based Spikers are back as challengers and so far, they sport an unscathed 6-0 win-loss record. La Salle only dropped two sets so far in their six victories, with one against Adamson and the other against FEU.
Maraño’s absence this season brought big changes and adjustments to the team. Responsibilities were heavier than before, especially for the veterans Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Kim Fajardo and new team captain Ara Galang. Bench players like Camille Cruz and Christine Soyud will also have to step up for the team, now that they are given more minutes to play.
Underdogs no more
A rookie-laden squad last season, the Lady Eagles continue to prove that they have what it takes to repeat as champions. With former rookie stars Jia Morado and Michelle Morente gaining more experience in the collegiate league, Ateneo remains solid with the presence of senior players Amy Ahomiro and Ella De Jesus together with prized rookie Bea de Leon. As the team captain, Valdez is expected to work harder in terms of numbers and motivating her team regardless of her performance on the court.
Last December 2014, the Lady Eagles represented the country in the 17th ASEAN University Games in Indonesia wherein they took home the bronze medal. However, upon returning from their successful run in the international competition, they were greatly challenged by the UP Lady Maroons in a five-set thriller which they eventually won. Ateneo remains undefeated but their match against UP was the first time in the season that they dropped a set.
Ateneo will have to face the UE Lady Warriors for their sixth game on January 10 and will have less than a day to prepare for their final game in the first round against La Salle, which will be on Sunday, January 11, at 4 pm in the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Should Ateneo win against UE, their match against La Salle will break the tie for the first spot.