As we are in the midst of yet another great season of volleyball, fans all over the Philippines are once again riding into the business end of the UAAP: the Final 4.
In its 79th edition, it will be the ADMU, DLSU, UST, and FEU to compete for the title.
Let’s take a look at the intriguing match-ups as we enter the stretch run of the UAAP tournament.
#1 Ateneo Lady Eagles (twice-to-beat) vs #4 FEU Lady Tamaraws
After ousting the DLSU Lady Spikers in the final game of Round 2 with a 5-set victory and clinching the top seed in the process, the Lady Eagles come into this game full of confidence as they will only need just a game to get into the championship round.
Led by stars Bea De Leon, Jia Morado, Kat Tolentino and Michelle Morente, they are coping just well with the departure of the great Alyssa Valdez.
Another boost for the Lady Eagles will be the return of their star open hitter, Jhoana Maraguinot, who missed the last two games with a recurring left knee problem. A breakout game by Jules Samonte will give Coach Tai Bundit another selection headache with her key 10 points vs DLSU. The Lady Eagles boast depth and talented players wanting to be part of his rotation, which is always a good problem to have.
When asked about Samonte, Jhoana Maraguinot could only give nothing but praise. “Funny kasi nu’ng magi-start ang game when I was giving her instructions, niyayakap niya ako tapos sabi niya, ‘Ate Jho, Ate Jho.’ Sabi ko relax ka lang kaya mo ‘yan, makinig ka lang sa sasabihin ko. She delivered well and I’m so proud of her.”
For the FEU Lady Tamaraws, they come into this came dispatching the uprising UP Lady Maroons in straight sets.
After a slow start in the season, FEU picked up the slack and are heading to the Final Four on a winning streak. The team continues to have their eyes set on the championship despite losing veteran Gyzell Sy. Led by graduating captain Remy Palma, and star hitters in Bernadette Pons and Toni Rose Basas, coach Shaq Delo Santos likes their chances of breaking a 9-year title drought for the Lady Tamaraws.
“Season 70 pa nung last nagchampion yung FEU. Ito yung pinaka-chance ng team namin, pinaka-peak ng lineup namin para makuha yung goal.”
Ateneo play FEU on April 23, 2017 Sunday 4PM @ MOA Arena
#2 DLSU Lady Spikers (twice-to-beat) vs #3 UST Golden Tigeresses
Finishing the season at 11-3, the Lady Spikers will come out hungry as they look to defend their crown. Sporting a revamped roster with the likes of Captain Kim Fajardo, Kianna Dy, Majon Baron, and Dawn Macandili, a new era has truly set in Taft Avenue as Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, and Cyd Demecillo finished their UAAP eligibility last season.
They will also get help elsewhere with Desiree Cheng, Aduke Ogunsanya, May Luna, and Tin Tiamzon all having increased roles for the squad of Coach Ramil De Jesus in this championship run.
Despite their loss against Ateneo in the final elimination game of the season, Kianna Dy is very confident that DLSU can turn the switch. “We’re working on it, that swag is a really big thing to shoulder and the guys who were left don’t talk a lot, I don’t talk a lot ,but if swag is really needed, we’ll do our best to express it.”
On the other side, Coach Kungfu Reyes will have to rely again on his veterans if they want to score an upset vs the Lady Spikers. Ria Meneses, EJ Laure, and Cherry Rondina will lead the Tigeresses out to the court after roaring back in their win-or-go home tie against National Univeristy in the last game of Round 2.
After being down 2-1 in that game, the Tigeresses were able to withstand late rallies by the Bulldogs with likely MVP, JaJa Santiago, carrying the whole team on her back. With UST’s first playoff berth on the line since 2012, EJ Laure, who twisted her ankle in the 5th set with 22 points, wasn’t going to let this opportunity past.
“Nasa isip ko, matatapos na yung game tapos dun pa ako na-sprain. Pero ang gusto ko lang kasi talaga, matapos yung game na nandun ako.”
Along with Christine Francisco, they were able to secure a ticket to the Final 4 and face a DLSU squad ready to defend the title by all means necessary.
DLSU play UST on April 22, Saturday 4PM @ Smart Araneta Coliseum
(IF NECESSARY* both games will be played on April 26, Wednesday at 2PM and 4PM respectively at the MOA Arena)
– Kyle Pineda