ATENEO is one win away from back-to-back titles and a rare season sweep after scoring an easy 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 victory over a La Salle side that looked disoriented without skipper Ara Galang on Wednesday at the start of the UAAP women’s volleyball finals at the Araneta Coliseum.
Strong and sharp despite a 20-day layoff after a sweep of the eliminations, the thrice-to-beat Lady Eagles cruised to their 15th victory of the season and now need to win the next match to wrap up the title.
Alyssa Valdez punished the La Salle defense that was slow to react, scoring from practically all spots on the court by mixing up her usual crisp spikes with timely drop shots.
Galang, who suffered major knee injuries in a playoff against National University last week, sat on the bench with a jacket covering her huge knee brace, watching helplessly as the Lady Spikers absorbed their third loss to the Lady Eagles this season and fifth consecutive overall dating back to last season’s finals.
The Lady Spikers now face the daunting task of scoring three straight wins against the top-seeded Lady Eagles to wrest back the title they lost last season.
Valdez finished with 25 points including an offspeed shot that sealed the match that lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
Michelle Morente and Amy Ahomiro added eight and seven markers, respectively, while Jia Morado registered all of the team’s 20 excellent sets.
“Lagi kami nireremind ni coach Tai (Bundit) na magkaroon ng team play and nabibigyan din ako ng magandang bola ni Jia,” said Valdez.
“Ang game plan ni lang talaga ni coach Tai maglaro lang ng happy, as one, maganda naman results so I’m really happy,” she added.
La Salle managed to keep it close early in the third and was just two points behind at 18-20 when Valdez and Morado worked to widen the gap, 22-18, and Joy Baron gave away an extra point to Ateneo after a miscue, 23-18.
“If you play happy you can win,” said Bundit.
The Lady Eagles try to complete the back-to-back title romp on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the MOA Arena.
Cyd Demecillo led La Salle with 10 points, with Christine Soyud delivering eight and Mary Joy Baron adding seven.
Veteran Mika Reyes, however, came up with only four points.
La Salle's injury problems also continued to pile up, with Camille Cruz hurting her knee in an awkward landing in the third set. She was brought to Makati Medical Center.