Another exciting season of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament is about to come to a close, and what better way to end Season 80 than for old foes the DLSU Lady Spikers and FEU Lady Tamaraws to meet again.
Aiming to repeat its Season 71 victory over FEU, La Salle will again bank on veteran coach Ramil de Jesus and his tactics, as the graduating trio of Kim Dy, Majoy Baron, and Dawn Macandili hope to end their colorful collegiate career with their third-straight championship. The Lady Tamaraws, on the other hand, won't back down after spiker Bernadeth Pons waited until her fifth year to be in the Finals.
Pride will be at stake, as the Lady Spikers looks to claim its third three-peat and 11th title overall, while FEU is hungry to end a 10-year title drought and finally bag its 30th crown in the league. The following x-factors from each team will be instrumental in determining the outcome of the best-of-three series, whose Game 1 happens later today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Although La Salle had an intact core led by Dy, Baron, and Macandili, the sophomore setter seemed to be the team's "weak point"—until she gained momentum and sustained it. Cobb, in fact, moved a notch higher in the setting department, from fourth at the end of the first round with a 7.97 average by set to third at the end of the elimination round with 8.26. She has also excelled at serving, with a total of 31 service aces or a 0.58 average per set, second only to her fellow Lady Spiker Des Cheng (35 aces or 0.66 average per set).
In a sport dominated by taller players, the La Salle libero stands 10 feet tall. The pint-sized defense specialist isn't Asia's second best at her position for nothing. At the end of the elimination round, Macandili was second in digs with a 6.34 average per set and reception with a 52.31 efficiency rate.
Ramil de Jesus
The 10-time UAAP champion coach and current national team mentor is expected to pull off some surprises again. As his rival tacticians would describe: "Hindi ka pwedeng petiks kapag kalaban mo si Coach Ramil."
For the past four years, Pons was just a spectator as La Salle and Ateneo battled it out every Finals. Now that she's given the chance to gun for a crown, the pride of Talisay, Negros Occidental vows to give her best: "All-out na kasi last year and last chance ko na." At the end of the eliminations, she didn't only finish fourth in scoring with a total of 215 points, but can also give Macandili a run for her money. Pons is third in digs with a 3.71 average per set and reception with a 45.16 efficiency rate.
The 5'10" middle blocker is slowly emerging as one of the Lady Tamaraws' threats. She has dominated the blocking department with a total of 41 kill blocks or 0.73 average per set, beating 6'5" NU Lady Bulldogs stalwart Jaja Santiago (36 kill blocks or 0.68 average per set).
Although he is good friends off the court with De Jesus, Pascua means business against his coaching adversary. The two, in fact, were part of the 1991 FEU team that won a title in the UAAP—Pascua was a rookie middle blocker, while De Jesus was a graduating outside hitter. The former is intent on finally reclaiming the championship, saying, "Gusto naming ibalik sa Morayta ang trophy ulit na pinahiram ng FEU dati."
For the 10th straight year, the Lady Spikers are in the Finals. In that span, the Taft-based squad copped six titles, including a three-peat in Seasons 73 to 75, and three first runner-up finishes—one to UST in Season 72, and two to Ateneo in Seasons 76 and 77.
Every season, however, is a different story.