FOR the third straight year, Ateneo and Far Eastern University will meet each in the Final Four.
But the Lady Eagles are coming in confident, especially with the changes starting with Oliver Almadro taking over as head coach for UAAP Season 81.
"It's a different system than last year," said Kat Tolentino on Saturday. "Just adjusting to it this year has shown that there's a difference."
Maddie Madayag also feels that Ateneo is a more cohesive team this time.
"Systematically iba ang coach, but then as a team, we're more intact," said the senior middle hitter. "Confidence is higher and we trust each other more. Mas buo kami, mas pamilya kami."
That trust translated into success for the Lady Eagles in the eliminations, finishing on top of the standings at 12-2.
That set up Ateneo for another semifinal showdown with FEU (8-5), this time armed with a twice-to-beat advantage.
Almadro said that regardless of the team's rankings, the Lady Eagles see the Lady Tamaraws as a legitimate threat, even without the injured Lycha Ebon.
"FEU is really a good team considering yung winning tradition nila. We have to respect them. We acknowledge what they can do," he said. "Pag inaral mo yung team nila, we have to study what they're best at. We will not see it with any advantage. Alam natin ang FEU, intact sila so we have to prepare kung sino man ang nandoon."
Last season, FEU was No. 2 seed with a twice-to-beat advantage and needed only one match to boot out the Lady Eagles.
Almadro is hoping the Lady Eagles live up to expectations as top seeds.
"It's a test of character for the team," Almadro said.
"Last year, sila ang magkatapat sa semis. Now, it's time to show our character and we have a chance to show our real character. We have to work hard and play hard to be back in the Finals. Yun ang mindset namin, to be back in the Finals."