Battle begins as shorthanded La Salle tries to topple titleholder Ateneo in UAAP women's volley finals
Mika Reyes and the Lady Spikers need to score three wins to dethrone Alyssa Valdez and the Lady Eagles. Dante Peralta

BIT players take on bigger roles as a La Salle squad missing top player Ara Galang begins the title showdown with titleholder Ateneo led by MVP Alyssa Valdez on Wednesday in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

Focus will be on veterans Kim Fajardo and Mika Reyes, but also expected to deliver more than usual are rookie Christine Joy Soyud, Camille Cruz and Princess Tiu.

Those Lady Archers try to do thrice what they have twice failed to pull off with top scorer Galang, now out with a major knee injury.

Valdez and the Lady Eagles claimed an outright finals berth and a thrice-to-beat advantage after a 14-match sweep.

[See Is UAAP finals a 'Mission Impossible' for La Salle after Galang loss? Not so, say experts]

Now the Lady Spikers hope to stop the bleeding after four consecutive losses dating back to last season’s finals.

The match starts at 3:30 p.m.

One thing that could favor La Salle is the long break Ateneo had — 21 days — after completing the elimination-round sweep.

But Ateneo’s Thai coach Anusorn Bundit said he is not worried, noting that they have scored wins in training matches over Super Liga teams during the break.

“I continue training,” said the Thai coach. “I don’t want to stop training.”

[See Thrice-to-beat luxury in UAAP Finals overrated, says former Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb]

La Salle athletic director Nongnong Calanog noted that the Lady Spikers have done well in the season after the exit of former captain Aby Marano.

“Even before the start of the season we are the underdog,” he said. “Because of the loss of our key player Aby Marano we are really the underdog.”

“We are on the other side, we are facing the pressure and we have to beat them three times,” he added.

Ateneo won in five sets in the first round of eliminations and in four in the second round, but Ateneo team manager Tony Boy Liao says that won’t matter anymore.

“Sa Finals tapos na lahat ng stats na ’yan, psychology of the players na ang labanan dyan,” he said. “The players are the ones inside the court, wala na magagawa ang coach dyan.”

“Kaya tiwala ako kay Tai kasi sa laro hindi nagagalit during the game, sinasabi lang happy, smile, kaya ’yung player magaan lang, enjoy lang. Pero sa training doon siya nagagalit kasi pag sa laro dapat bigyan mo ng kumpyansa ang players mo.”


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