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    Early clash of favorites as Ateneo, La Salle face off in UAAP volleyball opener

    May 4, 2022
    Coaches Ramil de Jesus and Oliver Almadro collide on opening day.

    A LITTLE over two years since the last taraflex was laid out at the Mall of Asia Arena, women's volleyball competitions finally return this UAAP Season 84 on Thursday.

    Archrivals Ateneo and La Salle clash in an early match of favorites at 4 p.m.

    It's an early preview for what's to come this season with Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro and La Salle mentor Ramil de Jesus battling for the early lead.

    Season 81 runner-up University of Santo Tomas raise the curtains at 10 a.m. when it meets semifinalist Far Eastern University, followed by the clash between National University and Adamson at 12 p.m., with University of the Philippines and University of the East clashing in the 6 p.m. nightcap.

    Things to know about this season's volleyball competitions.

    ROAD TO REPEAT: All eyes will still be on Ateneo which is seeking for back-to-back crowns after the COVID-19 pandemic foiled its Season 82 campaign in 2020. The responsibility now falls on the shoulders of Faith Nisperos, Dani Ravena, Jaja Maraguinot, and Vanie Gandler to keep the Blue Eagles on top.

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    BACK IN BUSINESS: It's been three years since La Salle last made it to the finals and surely, the Lady Spikers want nothing but to get themselves back in the title chase. Jolina Dela Cruz, Thea Gagate, and Leila Cruz will all be counted on to lead the Taft side as they plot their path back to the pinnacle.

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    CONTENDERS: UST, with Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez, Maji Mangulabnan, and Bernadett Pepito, should still be a force to be reckoned with under the guidance of coach Kungfu Reyes. Lycha Ebon and Shiela Kiseo will also be the veterans to carry the George Pascua-coached FEU. Also posing intrigue will be the Karl Dimaculangan-mentored NU which still has Jen Nierva and Ivy Lacsina and has added Kamille Cal, Michaela Belen, and Alyssa Solomon.

    Jen Nierva

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    Jen Nierva leads the NU Lady Bulldogs.

    THE OTHERS: Adamson shouldn't be a walk-in-the-park with its intact roster led by Louie Romero and Rizza Cruz, while UE, powered by Ja Lana, and UP, flanked by Jewel Encarnacion, should spring a few surprise with their young rosters.

    WHO'S GONE: The landscape has definitely changed after two years of inactivity. Ateneo has lost a number of names in Kat Tolentino, Jules Samonte, Ponggay Gaston, and Jho Marguinot, while La Salle has also saw the graduations of Michelle Cobb, Tin Tiamzon, and Aduke Ogunsanya. UST also lost EJ Laure and Alina Bicar, FEU no longer has Gel Cayuna, Buding Duremdes, and Czarina Carandang, NU will miss the presence of Risa Sato, and Tots Carlos, Isa Molde, and Ayel Estranero won't be with UP this year.

    WATCH OUT FOR: Eya Laure and Faith Nisperos should figure in a tight race for the MVP this year as their experience should come in handy in leading their respective sides. Boosting their confidence is their exposure with the Philippine women's national volleyball team as they gained significant knowledge from their ates while fighting for the country's pride.

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    Coaches Ramil de Jesus and Oliver Almadro collide on opening day.
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