EVEN in the absence of two key players, Far Eastern University is setting out for a title repeat in the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference which reels off this Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Lady Tams swept the fancied National University Lady Bulldogs in last year’s finals to annex a first-ever league championship for one of the six pioneers of the country’s premier women’s volley league.
But with top setter Yna Papa and top receiver/digger Christine Agno finishing their tour of duty for the Morayta-based school, the Lady Tams will be hard pressed to make it back-to-back.
What makes it tougher for FEU is that it will be facing 11 other teams out to make their mark, a record cast in the popular league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
But with national team mainstay Jovelyn Gonzaga and veteran Honey Royse Tubino of Army backing up the squad as guest players, the Lady Tams remain a formidable force.
Coach Shaq delos Santos still considers his team as underdogs although the Lady Tams boast of top hitter Bernadeth Pons, skipper Joy Palma and holdovers Genevieve Casugod, Kyla Atienza and Jerrili Malabanan.
Out to challenge the defending title holder are reigning UAAP champion Ateneo, NCAA titlist Arellano University, six-time champion University of Santo Tomas, NU, San Sebastian-Recoletos, University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, St. Benilde, La Salle-Dasmarinas, University of Batangas, and Technological Institute of the Philippines.
FEU hopes to come up with a strong start against Univ. of Batangas when the league kicks off its mid-season conference on Saturday with an explosive triple-bill that includes the clash between Ateneo and UST and San Sebastian against St. Benilde.
Games will be played on Saturdays-Sundays with each team allowed to tap two guest players, according to the organizing Sports Vision.
Under the format, the top four teams from each group after a single round elims will move into the quarterfinals where they will be merged into one group. The quarters will still be a one-round robin phase although matches played by the teams in the prelims will no longer be played with the results carried over into the round.
The top four will advance to the semis with the No. 1 clashing with No. 4 and the Nos. 2 and 3 teams facing off in the other best-of-three series. Winners will dispute the championship in another best-of-three series.