THE opening weekend of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament will feature the marquee match between rivals De La Salle and on February 17 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Lady Spikers' quest for a rare fourth successive championship gets an acid test right on the second playdate of the season when they take on a Lady Eagles side that is out to atone for a Final Four defeat to their rival last year.
Beginning life without stars Majoy Baron, Kianna Dy and Dawn Macandili, La Salle head coach Ramil De Jesus' Lady Spikers will now be led by Desiree Cheng, Michelle Cobb, Tin Tiamzon, May Luna, Aduke Ogunsanya and rookie Jolina Dela Cruz.
Oliver Almadro, who replaced Tai Bundit as Ateneo coach, also gets his baptism of fire against the 11-time champion de Jesus.
The Lady Eagles will now be bannered by Kat Tolentino, Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, Deanna Wong and rookie Vanie Gandler.
Sisi Rondina will kick off her final season - and rookie sensation Eya Laure begins her college career - when University of Santo Tomas battles Adamson at 2 p.m. before the 4 p.m. rivalry battle.
Last year’s silver medalist Far Eastern University will headline the opening day on February 16 against National University, which will be playing without Jaja Santiago for the first time after five seasons.
University of the Philippines, which ruled the collegiate tournaments of the Premier Volleyball League and Philippine Superliga, also debuts on February 16 battling the vastly-improved University of the East at 2 p.m.
In the men’s division, defending champion NU opens its title-retention bid against bronze medalist FEU at 10 a.m. after the 8 a.m. clash between UP and UE on opening day.
Last year’s runner-up Ateneo, meanwhile, begins life without five-time MVP Marck Espejo against De La Salle also on Feb. 17 at 10 a.m. after the Adamson-UST clash at 8 a.m.