AFTER La Salle clinched the last Finals berth, head coach Ramil de Jesus was straight forward in calling his team the underdogs in their fifth straight face-off with Ateneo in the championship of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
The Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles will try to break the tie in their Finals match-ups, as La Salle scored the first two in Seasons 74 and 75 before Ateneo evened the series in claiming the throne in Seasons 76 and 77.
But for eight-time champion coach de Jesus, his team has the lesser chance of winning the title. La Salle came from a gruelling semis battle with FEU, while Ateneo had a week to prepare after it defeated University of the Philippines in the Final Four.
“Last time nagharap kami, kami ‘yung talo so lalabas na kami ang underdog. Then sila ‘yung nag-No.1 kami ‘yung nag-No. 2.,” said the veteran mentor after they disposed the Lady Tamaraws, 25-15, 27-25, 25-21, on Wednesday at the MOA Arena.
In the elimination round, La Salle drew first blood via an easy, 25-22, 25-14, 25-18, win on February 27. But in their next meeting, Ateneo gave its arch rival a dose of its own medicine after a thrilling five-setter, 21-25, 25-22, 25-16, 21-25, 15-5, on April 10.
“Sabi ko nga noong first time na tinalo namin sila sa first round, lahat ng teams nagkaroon ng chance. Dumali ang situation, unlike na na-sweep. Napakahirap daanan ng sweep eh," he said.
However, de Jesus sets aside past battles as he considers the best-of-three Finals series a whole different ball game.
“(Pero) pag sa Finals kasi iba na eh. Kung sino ‘yung nakapag-prepare ng husto (ang mananalo),” he said.
Game One starts on Saturday at Araneta Coliseum.