VOLLEYBALL action in UAAP Season 76 kicks off December 1 with De La Salle opening its bid for a fourth straight title against dark horse Adamson University and last year’s runner-up Ateneo fielding a rookie-laden roster opposite the Dindin and Jaja Santiago-led National University.
The season openers will be staged at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in an explosive afternoon showdown.
The men battle in the curtain-raiser in the morning, with last year’s second-placer Far Eastern University (FEU) battling No. 4 Adamson University at 8:30 a.m. and reigning champion NU facing Season 75 third-placer De La Salle at 10 o’clock.
De La Salle will be opening its bid for a fourth-straight women’s title with a still formidable lineup against an Adamson University side that finished third last season.
Despite losing Michelle Gumabao, who will not play her final year of eligibility, and Wensh Tiu and libero Melissa Gohing, who have graduated, De La Salle remains as the team to beat with Season 75 co-Most Valuable Players Abigail Maraño, and Ara Galang plus Kim Fajardo.
Focus will also be on the Lady Bulldogs with the presence of their dreaded twin towers Dindin and Jaja Santiago, who stand six-foot-four and six-foot-five, respectively.
Dindin,19, and Jaja,17, made an immediate impact when they led NU to the crown in an off-season tournament earlier this year.
Ateneo hopes to steal some of the limelight, although the Lady Eagles will have to do it without their Fab Five of Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio, Gretchen Ho, Jem Ferrer and Aillysse Nacachi, who all have consumed their eligibility in the league.
Power-hitting Alyssa Valdez is expected to carry on her shoulders an Ateneo side that is currently undergoing a rigid training in Thailand.
Season host Adamson University is also expected to make noise. Known for its floor defense, the Lady Falcons will have Sheila Pineda, Marleen Cortel, Faye Guevara, Amanda Villanueva and Mayette Zapanta as front-liners.
Action resumes on December 4 at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan with the curtain-raiser between newly-crowned University Games champion University of Santo Tomas and University of the Philippines at 2 p.m., followed by the FEU-University of the East match at 4 p.m.
UAAP volleyball drew a record 19,638 fans for last season’s Ateneo-De La Salle finals showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena.