USUALLY, it's only men's basketball games between arch-rivals Ateneo and De La Salle that draw a lot of interest from sports fans.
Well, not anymore.
The throngs of fans that were turned away during the UAAP season's first Ateneo-De La Salle women’s volleyball match, and the game's rising television ratings, are proof that the ladies are ready to give the two schools' basketball stars a run for their money.
The encouraging reception from fans was also enough to convince league officials to move the rival schools' second meeting from The Arena in San Juan to the much-bigger Mall of Asia Arena.
The rematch between rivals is set on February 9 in the last game of a heavy four-game bill where the league is expecting no less than a full-house crowd.
“Hopefully,” said UAAP secretary-treasurer Junel Baculi when asked if he expects a packed house.
The move to the MOA Arena is a big step for the college league, which used to hold its matches at the University of the Philippines gym. And the dazzling play of the Lady Archers and the Lady Eagles, as well as the rivalry it has stirred, has no doubt helped spur the league's popularity.
Their first meeting of the season lived up to the hype. Ateneo went unbeaten in the first round before it was clipped by La Salle in a thrilling five-setter, 26-28 21-25 25-13 25-21 15-13, leaving the two rivals in a tie for first place with 6-1 win-loss records.
Baculi bared that the league failed to accommodate all the fans who trooped to The Arena in San Juan to witness that rematch of last season’s championship series won by the Lady Archers.
“’Yun ang nag-generate nung rivalry during the first round, it created a lot of comments and top ratings sa television. Even during the semifinals and finals,” Baculi said.
“Marami kaming hindi napapasok nung game na ‘yun so we wanted to get a bigger venue,” he added.
Baculi said that the semifinals and the finals will also be played at the MOA Arena.
Tickets will be higher than usual as patron seats are pegged at P200. Lower box seats are priced at P150, upper box at P75, and general admission at P50. At the San Juan venue, the tickets range from P50 to P150.
The tickets are not yet being sold but the league has been receiving a lot of inquiry, according to Baculi.
“Maraming humihingi at nag-iinquire,” said Baculi.
Other games set at the MOA Arena are just as interesting, with fast-rising National University battles perennial title contender University of Santo Tomas.
The game has built a mini-rivalry after Dindin Santiago, one of the top players from UST, has finally played for the Lady Bulldogs after serving a two-year residency.
In the men’s side, La Salle will take on University of the East while Ateneo faces UST.