Tomorrow marks the first meeting between Ateneo and De La Salle in UAAP Season 78 Women's Volleyball tournament. You know what that means: hype, drama, and a load of quality collegiate volleyball action that will keep us fans on the edge of our seats.
As expected, even before game tickets were officially released, fans from both camps were already going gaga for tomorrow's matchup to be held at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum tomorrow, 4:00 p.m.
But before all those spikes go flying, we've come up with a short list of what to expect in the action-packed, drama-filled, and high intensity face-off.
The Alyssa Valdez Show
Twenty-two-year-old back-to-back MVP and Queen Eagle Alyssa is again expected to run the show with her unstoppable spikes from all corners of the court. The pride of San Juan, Batangas is currently the second best scorer in the league with a total of 102 points, one point shy of Adamson’s Jessica Galanza.
A rematch but will we witness a different outcome?
The spikers from Katipunan and the volleybelles from Taft have squared off in the Finals in the last four seasons, resulting to an even 2-2 record.
La Salle ruled Seasons 74 and 75, but Ateneo snatched the crown in Season 76 and successfully defended the title last year. Will the Lady Spikers halt the Lady Eagles' 24-game winning run dating back to the Finals two seasons ago or will Ateneo extend it to number 25?
Another Ateneo domination?
After they moved heaven and earth in Season 76 to erase La Salle's thrice-to-beat advantage en route to winning Ateneo's first title in the UAAP since joining the league in 1978, the Lady Eagles were unstoppable in 2015, dominating Season 77 with 16-0 sweep
Without La Salle's ace spiker Ara Galang injured, the Lady Eagles clobbered the Lady Spikers in the Finals: 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 in Game 1 and 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 in Game 2. We're pretty sure the green side is raring to end the blue-and-white's rampage, and prove that they too have the power to challenge for the crown.
A better La Salle?
La Salle's middle blocker Mika Reyes has been very vocal about their campaign, saying that the Lady Spikers have vastly improved since last season's Finals debacle. The comely fair-skinned volleybelle, however, does not want to reveal much about their strategies especially against Valdez and Co., but she’s confident that they will put up a good fight against the currently undefeated Lady Eagles.
The return of Ara
The Taft-based spikers missed top hitter Galang in last season's Finals due to an ACL, MCL, and meniscus tear and big bone bruises in her left knee, which she suffered during their stepladder semis against National University. This year, the graduating Galang is back, physically fit and raring to rain down spikes on the Ateneo defense. Let's see if the Lady Eagles are prepared for her upcoming onslaught.
Ateneo's supporting crew
Valdez may run the show but her supporting cast of Amy Ahomiro, sophomores Maddie Madayag and Jhoana Maraguinot, and setter Jia Morado is no push-over. Maraguinot currently leads the season in spikes with a total of 44 points from attacks on 45.36 percent success rate, while Madayag is tops in serves with a total of 15 aces. Meanwhile, Morado is second in the league in terms of setting (volleyball's counterpart for assists) with a 7.79 average per set, just behind La Salle's Kim Fajardo (8.65). Now that's a loaded crew.
Battle of the coaches
Ateneo’s Thai coach Tai Bundit and La Salle’s veteran mentor Ramil de Jesus will once again clash in a battle of wit, tactics, and character. Will Bundit’s "heart strong" mantra work anew or will de Jesus, who's now in his 19th year with the Lady Spikers, manage to outwit the foreigner and steer his team to a much-needed win over the Lady Eagles?