CHOLO Villanueva hopes to lead the La Salle Lady Archers to a title against unbeaten National University, nine years after being in a similar situation back when he was a player for the Green Archers.
Villanueva, in his second year at the helm as the Lady Archers, is facing a daunting task as he tries to overcome the Lady Bulldogs, who dominated the league with a 14-0 win-loss record to gain an outright finals berth.
Villanueva is actually no longer new to the situation.
In 2007, La Salle faced a University of the East squad that also went 14-0 in the elims, but Villanueva and the Green Archers turned the tables by beating the Red Warriors via finals sweep.
After that loss by UE, the UAAP made changes by giving the team that swept the elimination round a thrice-to-beat incentive.
“It was an advantage, for me, when we were playing. I think that happened na after the championship in 2007, I think 2008, thrice to-beat na ‘yung 14-0,” said Villanueva.
The thrice-to-beat advantage, however, was scrapped as it reverted back to a best-of-three finals series, regardless of whether there was a team that swept the elimination round or not.
And as fate would have it, Villanueva is in the situation again.
“When you reach the finals, it’s 0-0. It’s not 14-0 or 13-1, it’s back to zero. It’s one game at a time. So I think that’s an advantage. You need to win two games instead of three,” said Villanueva.
But Villanueva made it clear the task won’t be easy, as the Lady Archers face a Lady Bulldogs squad that has several national players led by league MVP Afril Bernardino.
“I think they are composed mostly of national team members so experience-wise, talent wise, they are the more experienced team. They have the advantage,” said Villanueva.
Villanueva is hoping for the best for the Lady Archers, who are gunning for their first title since 2013 after securing a return trip to the finals with a victory over University of the East in the stepladder.
“We were inexperienced in the Final Four. But this year, we had that experience already, but we want to gain more experience by winning. We just have to play the right way, match their intensity and hopefully get the win,” Villanueva said.
Game One of the women’s finals is at 11 a.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Meanwhile, NU coach Patrick Aquino hopes that the Lady Bulldogs will be motivated to win the title after bowing to La Salle in that 2013 title series.
“I’m happy that we are going to play La Salle. Maybe it’s payback. Hopefully, we will be on the groove and sharp for the game,” said Aquino.
The Perlas Pilipinas head coach said he doesn’t mind the change in the rules of scrapping the thrice-to-beat advantage for a team which swept the elimination round.
“It’s probably psychological na may thrice-to-beat. But we still need to win twice. We will just have to be ready for that,” said Aquino.