DE La Salle tries to sustain its dominance in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament against an Ateneo side that is longing for payback when the archrivals collide on Saturday in Game One of the best-of-three finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In a rematch of last year’s finals, the Lady Spikers seek to move a step closer to a third straight title and eighth overall under coach Ramil de Jesus in a highly anticipated series that is expected to set all-time records, both in attendance and television rantings.
The Lady Eagles are equally motivated as they seek a maiden league championship for the school while trying to avenge their loss to La Salle in last year's finals.
Toppling the Lady Archers, however, will not be easy.
La Salle is on a hot streak, having been unbeaten in the last 14 games or since they bowed to University of Santo Tomas in its first game of the season.
The Lady Archers also swept the two teams' head-to-head matchups in the elimination round, first a stunning come-from-behind 26-28, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21, 15-13 decision in January that took more than two-and-a-half hours to finish, and the second a relatively easier 25-19, 25-23, 25-21 victory last month.
But the Lady Archers hold no fear for the Lady Eagles, who beat Adamson in straight sets in the Final Four to get another shot at their finals tormentors last season.
“Wala naman sa amin kung back-to-back sila,” said Ateneo senior setter Jem Ferrer, who has facilitated the Lady Eagles’ offense with aplomb this season.
“Kasi sa huli ang basis pa rin naman yung end, yung final result. Okay lang kung kanila na yung last year basta this year kunin na namin at pipilitin na naming mag-champion,” added Ferrer, the Best Setter award frontrunner.
Fellow seniors Gretchen Ho and Dzi Gervacio are equally motivated by last year’s finals outcome where Ateneo went up a game only to succumb in the last two.
“Ngayon na andito na kami ulit (sa finals) against them for the second time, yun yung motivation namin na hindi na maulit yung ganoon,” said Ho as she recalled their 25-16, 25-22, 25-13 Game Three loss to last year.
“Tapos inspiration na din magbigay ng all-out effort and it’s the last chance to grab the championship and the best opportunity ever. Since buo pa rin kami coming from last year’s experience,” Gervacio added.
Fille Cainglet echoed Gervacio’s sentiment, saying there’s no better way to cap their five-year collegiate career with no less than a championship.
“Magandang motivation yun na La Salle kalaban namin,” she said. “Tapos last year na namin. Kasi ito na yun eh, 'yung pinaghirapan naming for five years. Para worth it dapat na manalo kami.”
La Salle's coach and players were unavailable for interviews.
Ateneo’s seniors are expected to match up against La Salle’s similarly stellar cast led by reigning MVP Abigail Maraño, Michelle Gumabao, Mika Reyes, and Ara Galang.
National University and Far Eastern University battle in Game One of the men’s title series earlier at 2 p.m.