TOP seed Ateneo seeks to keep its unbeaten run with a solid crew as it clashes with University of Santo Tomas, but No. 2 National University faces a tough challenge against Far Eastern U with a depleted roster as the Shakey's V-League Season 12-Collegiate Conference Final Four fires off Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Dindin Santiago-Manabat will not be around for the Lady Bulldogs in their 3 p.m. duel with the Lady Tams to anchor the national team’s campaign in an Asian club tournament in Vietnam, leaving the brunt of scoring to younger sister Jaja Santiago, Myla Pablo, Aiko Urdas, Joy Doromal, skipper Jorelle Singh, and veteran setter Rubie de Leon.
“Dindin won’t play since she’s with the national team competing in Vietnam. She’ll be away for the duration of the semis, so we need the other players to step up,” said NU coach Roger Gorayeb.
Manabat has provided NU the experience and spunk, not to mention the hits, scoring 92 points, including 71 spikes, from the elims to the quarters, and her absence will create a big hole not only in the Lady Bulldogs’ offense but also in floor and net defense.
For one, her counterpart, FEU guest player Jovelyn Gonzaga, will surely have a field day knocking down the hits from both sides with support to come from Honey Royce Tubino along with Bernadette Pons, Jerrili Malabanan, Toni Basas, Angela Negrito, and Genevieve Casugod.
That should make their side of the semis duel doubly interesting with FEU expected to pounce on Manabat’s absence and ride on the momentum of its five-set win over UST in their playoff for the No. 3 spot in the semis of the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
In contrast, odds remain stacked on Ateneo in its semis series with a UST side to be shown live on GMA News TV Channel 11 starting at 12:45 p.m.
The Tigresses got a free ride to the semis through St. Benilde’s shock win over Arellano University in the last quarters duel.
But UST, the league’s winningest team with six titles, is raring to prove its worth with young Ennajie Laure, No. 2 in scoring, and Marivic Meneses hoping to further raise the level of their games along with skipper Pam Lastimosa, Carmela Tunay, and Jessey De Leon in a bid to deal the Lady Eagles’ first setback in the league.
Still, focus will be on Alyssa Valdez, who didn’t see action in Ateneo’s opening game against UST but still emerged the league’s runaway scoring leader with a 28-hit norm.
Valdez’s backup crew has also been impressive with Jhoanna Maraguinot dishing out one big game after another along with the steady Amy Ahomiro, Bea De Leon, Kim Gequillana, Ella de Jesus, and the league’s leading setter Gizelle Tan.