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    Coaches favor 'deep, talented' Ateneo Lady Eagles but refuse to count La Salle out

    Feb 26, 2016
    The Ateneo Lady Eagles are unbeaten through six games. Dante Peralta

    SOME of Philippine volleyball's respected coaches weighed in on the heavily anticipated game between archrivals Ateneo and La Salle in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament, mostly favoring the back-to-back champion Lady Eagles over the Lady Spikers.

    Petron coach George Pascua, who has won two titles in the Philippine Super Liga including a 13-game conference sweep in the All Filipino Conference last year, said that Ateneo has the advantage because of its depth.

    “Ateneo, mas malakas sila (than) last last year kasi [dati identified] mo na ‘yung mga spikers like [Alyssa] Valdez (pero) ngayon lahat sila kailangan bantayan (kasi) lahat sila nag level up,” said Pascua, noting how sophomores Jhoana Maraguinot and Maddie Madayag have played well this season for the Katipunan-based spikers.

    Maraguinot currently leads the best spiker race with a total of 44 points from attacks, with 45.36 percent success rate, while Madayag is the best server with a total of 15 service aces.

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    National University coach Roger Gorayeb, who also called the shots for the Lady Eagles from 2008-2013 and steered the team to back-to-back runner up finishes in his last two years, said Ateneo is more likely to win the match mainly because of Valdez.

    He also cited that La Salle top hitter Ara Galang, who just recovered from a major knee injury suffered during their stepladder semis last year, is not yet as dominant as she had been in seasons past.

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    “Lamang ang Ateneo because buo pa lineup nila, plus si Alyssa nandyan pa,” said Gorayeb. “Pero ang main spiker ng La Salle, si Galang, still struggling to get her old form because of her injury. But we will never know talaga, malaking bagay ang pride ng both teams.”

    [See Mika Reyes feels La Salle a 'more confident team' ahead of Ateneo grudge match]

    PSL president Tats Suzara believes that Ateneo’s individual skills, international training, and coach Tai Bundit’s expertise will be the Lady Eagles’ main advantage.

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    “Ateneo has the edge with its individual players’ readiness and (they) came from a training camp in Thailand twice. Coach Tai is also a veteran coach, being national junior coach of Thailand for many years and (he) knows how to use his players,” said Suzara.

    “On the other hand, if DLSU changes its strategy on spiking and blocking, it might change the tempo of the match and can win one or two sets or the match if lucky,” added Suzara, who’s also a development commission officer in the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).

    Meanwhile, University of Santo Tomas coach Kungfu Reyes went with the unconventional pick. The 35-year old mentor, who’s also a sergeant in the Philippine Army and handles three-time PSL champion RC Cola Army, is betting on La Salle for its depth.

    “La Salle ako (kasi) malalim ang bench. Malalim arsenal ng La Salle at saka ‘yung rookies nila panalong panalo andun pa si libero (Dawn) Macandili and big factor ‘yung (presence ni) Ara Galang,” said Reyes, referring to the Lady Spikers impressive batch of freshmen in Ernestine Tiamzon, May Luna and Carmel Saga.

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    The Lady Spikers, led by their Big Three of Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, and Galang, have the unenviable task of halting Ateneo’s six-game winning run for the season and a total of 24 consecutive victories dating back to their Finals showdown two seasons ago when the two sides clash Saturday, 4 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.

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    The Ateneo Lady Eagles are unbeaten through six games. Dante Peralta
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