Ateneo starts season of redemption as Lady Eagles take on UST Tigresses in UAAP women's volley opener
Bea de Leon, a key player in the Ateneo squad that topped the eliminations last season but bowed to La Salle in the finals, hopes to help lift the Lady Eagles to the title this time. Dante Peralta

ATENEO starts its season of redemption when it takes on University of Sto. Tomas as the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament opens on Saturday at The Araneta Coliseum.

The match starts at 4 p.m., with the Lady Eagles looking to return to the finals without star Alyssa Valdez.

They are now without their main weapon of the past few seasons, but Bea de Leon says everybody is now looking to chip in on offense.

"Kasi even us before, the spikers, we'd expect to go to Ate Aly, so now, even us, we don't know. But ayun, it changes the flow kasi nga the stats are spread out na," said De Leon, a key player in the squad that topped hte eliminations last season but bowed to La Salle in the finals.

Aside from De Leon, Ateneo coach Tai Bundit still has Jhoanna Maraguinot, Michele Morente and captain Jia Morado to count on.

The Lady Eagles will also have Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino, both coming off major knee injuries.

UST meanwhile eyes a strong start as the Tigresses look to finally make the semifinals after four seasons.

The Tigresses are hoping fine performances in offseason tournaments would translate to wins in the UAAP.

The Tigresses, who last won a title in 2010, hope to get consistent performances from Cherry Rondina, EJ Laure, Chloe Cortez, Ria Meneses and Alex Cabanos, with Pam Lastimosa returning from an injury.

"Wala akong iniisip na ganoon (wala na si Alyssa Valdez sa Ateneo), ang sa akin is buong team talaga," sad Rondina. "Kung ano ang dapat trabahuhin, 'yun ang gagawin namin para makapanalo kami."

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