DEFENDING champion Ateneo and last year’s runner-up University of Santo Tomas begin their respective title quests against separate foes on Wednesday in the UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Ateneo starts its title-retention bid against University of the Philippines in the 4 p.m. main game of an explosive quadruple-header.
Lady Eagles head coach Oliver Almadro is going to gauge his reloaded roster bannered by rookie sensation Faith Nisperos and returnees Jho Maraguinot and Jamie Lavitoria teaming up with holdovers Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston, Jules Samonte and Dani Ravena.
Almadro is not looking at the individual talent of each Lady Eagle as he wants them to work as one unit, especially that they are facing a stacked UP squad led by Isa Molde and Tots Carlos.
“I’m always saying it’s not about how strong you are, it’s about how you put your effort, how you put hard work in what you’re doing,” he said. “Kumbaga di sapat yung magaling ka na, you have to love what you’re doing and you have to put enthusiasm para magkaroon ng team work and cohesiveness.”
UST, on the other hand, begins life without reigning MVP Sisi Rondina against a dangerous National University side at 10:30 a.m.
Tigresses head coach KungFu Reyes admitted that no one can replace Rondina’s presence, but her legacy lives on.
Reyes is also believes that his squad is in good hands under the leadership of last year’s top rookie Eya Laure and her sister EJ Laure as well as team captain Alina Bicar.
“Wala namang pwedeng pumalit kay Sisi pero yung spot na pwedeng magtake over, kung sino namang magaact as a leader madami namang kaming mga seniors,” he said. “Yung naiwan ni Sisi, nahawaan niya yung mga bata ganun din yung mga seniors namin ngayon.”
UST faces a tough test against NU as coach Norman Miguel parades team captain Risa Sato and newcomer Margot Mutshima and sophomores Ivy Lacsina and Jennifer Nierva.
Meanwhile, NU Bulldogs start their ‘three-peat’ bid in the men’s division against UST Tiger Spikers at 9 a.m., while Ateneo and UP clash at 2 p.m.
Philippine men’s volleyball team head coach Dante Alinsunurin looks to duplicate their Southeast Asian Games silver medal success with his national team players Joshua Retamar and Ricky Marcos eyeing a third straight title in the UAAP.
The Bulldogs will start life without reigning MVP Bryan Bagunas and solid middle blockers Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura, but they remain heavy favorites this season with transferee Edward Camposano, last year’s top rookie Nico Almendras and James Natividad.