Rivalry continues as Lady Eagles, Lady Spikers prepare for round two battle
MANILA, Philippines - Roughly a month ago, the Mall of Asia Arena once again witnessed its corners filled with a healthy division of the blue and green as perennial rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles and De La Salle University Lady Spikers went head-to-head for the first time in the 79th UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament.
As the match day came to a close, it was the high-flyers of Katipunan who prevailed after edging out the defending champions in 4 sets, handing them the momental lead after Round 1.
A couple of weeks after, the two teams, which became the face of the UAAP Volleyball Finals for 5 consecutive years, have successfully booked the first two tickets to this year’s Final Four.
Although both have already locked in twice-to-beat advantages making Saturday's match-up a non-bearing one, the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry goes on as the institutions continue to fight for their alma mater pride.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Rappler takes a look back at the two teams’ Season 79 first round clash, and what went on after:
Flashback: Ateneo vs La Salle Round 1
Ateneo def. La Salle, 26-24, 26-24, 21-25, 25-17
The Finals rematch held last March 4 saw the Lady Eagles bouncing back from a 3rd set defeat, clawing their way to a hard-earned victory to close the first round. Nothing came easy for last year’s runners-up as they came from behind during the first two sets. Experience and endgame composure proved to be key, with the Lady Eagles pressing two straight tiebreakers and eventually winning them for a 2-0 lead in the match.
Mich Morente exploded for a game-high 25-point performance after delivering 20 excellent attacks to go with 3 blocks and 2 aces.
Season 78 Finals MVP Kim Dy meanwhile had 15 points on 12 spikes and 3 blocks for La Salle in their second loss this year.
By the numbers
As seen on the statistics released by ABS-CBN Sports as of April 5, the top two teams thus far continue to dominate the league in service-receive, scoring and spiking as well as in net defense. Veteran playmakers Kim Fajardo and Jia Morado have likewise propelled their respective squads atop the setting department.
The Lady Eagles still sit near the bottom of the ladder in floor defense with a 12.5 average in digs, while the Taft-based squad settle for 4th with a 14.26 average per set.
Another interesting detail to note is that La Salle has maintained an unblemished record so far in the second round of eliminations, only dropping matches against Ateneo and UP early in the season. The Lady Eagles, on the other hand, failed to avenge their Round 1 defeat against the Lady Bulldogs as the Roger Gorayeb-guided NU sweeps the elimination rounds series against his former team Ateneo.
‘Bilog ang bola’
Will the Lady Spikers go 7-0 in Round 2, or will Ateneo repeat on top against its rivals?
With this kind of playing field, and at this point of the competition, it could be anybody’s game.
“I’m sure La Salle is also preparing for us,” said Lady Eagles’ skipper Morado coming into Saturday’s duel. “Naka-ilang games naman. [Pero] bilog pa rin ang bola. Kung sino ang mananalo sa Saturday, ‘yun ang mas nag-prepare.”
(We played a few games already. The ball is round. Whoever wins on Saturday had the better preparation.)
The two teams square off for the second time this season on Saturday, April 8 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum starting at 4 p.m.
As a prelude to the much-awaited battle, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses and National University Lady Bulldogs will meanwhile go face-to-face at noon, with a shot for a semifinals slot at stake.－Rappler.com