Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Of these four, who’s gonna fall?
This is it, folks! The gruelling UAAP Women’s Volleyball regular season saw 4 worthy teams scrambling for the last 2 slots. The Jaja Santiago-led NU Lady Bulldogs were there. So with the UP Lady Maroons, with top-gun Kathy Bersola. And so were perennial contenders FEU Lady Tamaraws and the UST Tigresses.
It was war, folks; with no quarters given, no quarters asked; and no mercy for the adversary. And when the ceasefire was finally sounded, the FEU Lady Tams and the UST Tigresses emerged victorious. Battered a bit, but certainly unbowed. Say goodbye to the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Maroons. It is on to the semis for the two survivors, where they must get ready to face the towering powers of college volleyball today, the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the De La Salle Lady Spikers.
The FEU Lady Tams – starring Bernie Pons and Remy Palma – almost made it to the finals last year, pushing the eventual champions, the Lady Spikers of La Salle, to a rubber match. This time around, they must do the dance of death with a different partner, the seemingly-invincible Lady Eagles of Ateneo. The Eagles, with their new head honcho, Jia Morado; and their seasoned hitters – Jhoanne Maraguinot, Mitch Morente, Bea De Leon, Kim Gequillana, et al are aching to reclaim the title they had let slip away last year. Having topped this season’s elimination round, Ateneo enjoys a twice-to-beat advantage over FEU.
The Eagles however cannot take this game lightly. They know that the Tamaraws had almost gored them in the elimination round. Twice, the Tams had pushed them to the limit, with heart-breaking 5-set losses on both occasions they had met. With a little more luck, and a little more focus, the Tams know that they are very capable of closing out the high-flying Eagles.
The Tams had demonstrated a grit of their own, coming back from the dead by taking 3 consecutive must-win games at the homestretch, 2 of which came against fellow contenders NU and UP. The positive mindset is there. The basic skills are there. Will this winning attitude and dogged determination outmatch the veteran championship swag of the Eagles? Or will Morada and Morente make Morayta mourn?
On the other hand, the duel between La Salle and UST looks stacked in favor of the green Spikers. The Spikers won both encounters in the elims; the first in 4 sets, the second in a more commanding 3-set fashion. But the Taft-based belles of serve-and-volley cannot afford to be complacent either. With an explosive combo of Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure capable of scattering nuclear bombs anytime, the Tigresses cannot to be discounted. UST had come from nowhere, before clawing back with a sizzling 7-game winning streak that eventually catapulted them back into contention. If Ria Meneses regains her peak defensive form as former Best Blocker of the league, the Tigresses could be a formidable force to reckon with.
La Salle’s stats are pretty solid, particularly on the defensive end. They led the league in receiving and blocking, and have steady numbers in the rest of the stat sheet. With Dawn Macandili defending, and Kim Fajardo orchestrating the offense, plus last year’s Finals MVP Kim Dy leading a swarm of hitters, the team is as solid as the Great Wall of China. Given that, UST will need to show more consistency to keep abreast with the defending champs.
The two mano-a-mano duels unfold before the fans this weekend. Watch the pesky Pons-and-Palma show from FEU do battle against Ateneo’s merry maids Maraguinot, Morado and Morente. See UST and the rockin’ Rondina-Laure tag team as they trade fireballs with La Salle’s twin Kims and the Dawn of Defense. We are down to the Final Four, folks. Get ready with your beer and popcorn. Take your favorite spot before the boob-tube. For it’s winning time once again in UAAP Women’s Volleyball!!!
Photos courtesy of spin.ph, inquirer.net, abs-cbn, pinoy exchange.net, volleyverse.com, Richard Esguerra, Mark Cristino, Arvin Lim.