Alyssa Valdez and Ateneo Lady Eagles have tough first-day assignment vs NU Lady Bulldogs in UAAP volleyball
The Ateneo Lady Eagles are fielding practically the same squad that won last season's crown. Dante Peralta

ATENEO opens its quest for a second straight crown against National University when the women’s volleyball tournament of UAAP Season 77 opens on November 22 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Eagles, with an intact core, battle a Lady Bulldogs side that is now without Dindin Santiago in the 4 p.m. match.

University of Santo Tomas and University of the East collide in the other women’s match at 2 p.m.

The men’s tournament starts at 8 a.m. with NU facing Adamson University before Ateneo battles Far Eastern University in the 10 a.m. match.

Action shifts to the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan the next day, with FEU and University of the Philippines clashing at 2 p.m. Last-year’s runner-up La Salle takes on Adamson at 4 p.m.

The Lady Eagles, who are in Thailand for their annual pre-UAAP training, are tipped to repeat with reigning MVP Alyssa Valdez, Michelle Morente, Jia Morado, Kim Gequillana, Amy Ahomiro and libero Denden Lazaro leading the way.

Ateneo also got a boost in the middle with the entry of former Poveda standout Bea de Leon.

Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, Cyd Demecillo, Kim Fajardo, Desiree Cheng and Cienne Cruz are still with DLSU, but are now without skipper Abi Maraño, who has used up her playing eligibility.

Dindin's younger sister, 6-foot-4 Jaja Santiago, will now be the top player for NU, which also has Myla Pablo, Rizza Mandapat, Ivy Perez and rookie Jorelle Singh, while Aiko Urdas is expected to suit up after recovering from an ACL injury she sustained in a summer tournament.

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