Spotlight on promising new faces as UST Tigresses, Lady Eagles clash in V-League opener
EJ Laure and the Tigresses face an uphill battle against the Lady Eagles. Dante Peralta

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas unveils its two rookies when it takes on back-to-back UAAP champion Ateneo in the opener of the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Collegiate Conference at The Arena in San Juan on Saturday.

The Tigresses, who missed the UAAP Final Four for the past three years, will have freshmen Alexa Rafael and Alyssa Teope reinforce a team backstopped by veterans Pam Lastimosa, Mela Tunay, Jessey de Leon, Ria Meneses and sophomore EJ Laure.

UST high school star Teope played for the Philippine U-17 team with Laure’s younger sister – Eya while the 5-foot-10 Rafael can be effective as either a middle blocker or opposite spiker.

“Sinali na namin sila para makita natin kung paano sila working with the seniors team,” said UST assistant coach Ian Fernandez. “Matagal na rin sila sa amin and hopefully mag-deliver sila.”

Teope opted to stay with the university despite offers from other schools, while Rafael red-shirted for a year. They make their debut for the Tigresses in the 12:45 p.m match against the Lady Eagles.

However, the Lady Eagles will not be lacking in new faces as the two-time UAAP champions parade Filipino-Canadian Katrina Tolentino and Filipino-Japanese guest player Risa Sato.

This early, the 6-foot-3 Tolentino has drawn comparisons with Ateneo star and back-to-back UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez while Sato was part of the Under-23 national team that took part in the Asian Under 23 Women’s Championship.

Meanwhile, Army mainstays Jovelyn Gonzaga and Honey Royse Tubino will lead Far Eastern University when it battles University of Batangas in the 3 p.m. match.

Gonzaga and Tubino toughen an experienced Lady Tamaraws core that also includes Bernadeth Pons, Geneveve Casugod, Mary Palma and Jerrili Malabanan.

Former V-League champion San Sebastian will lean on team captain and Southeast Asian Games veteran Gretcel Soltones when it takes on St. Benilde in the 5 p.m. match.

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