By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
SECOND-ROUND action in women’s volleyball in Season 81 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippine begins today with the league-leading Ateneo Lady Eagles headlining the festivities.
The hottest team right now in the UAAP, Ateneo (6-1) is to meet an equally streaking team in the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses (5-2) in the 4 p.m. game set at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
Playing in the 2 p.m. opening game are the National University Lady Bulldogs (2-5) and University of the East Lady Warriors. (1-6).
Opened their season campaign with a loss to rivals and defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers, the Lady Eagles has soared since, going undefeated for the rest of the first round.
Ateneo has been doing it in the collective under the system of coach Oliver Almadro, who is in his first year of handling the Lady Eagles.
Veteran Kat Tolentino has been steady for her team, top-scoring with 15.3 points per game, good for fourth in the league.
She has been getting ample support from Maddie Madayag (11.7 points), the UAAP’s best blocker to date, as well as from Ponggay Gaston (8.6 points), Bea De Leon (8.1 points) and Jules Samonte (seven points).
Team captain De Leon, in particular, has been solid of late, earning for her the UAAP player of the week honors.
As the Lady Eagles closed out the first round, the graduating De Leon averaged 13.5 points, more than doubling her scoring average prior.
Ateneo coach Almadro said he is very happy with De Leon finally finding her game anew as they make a push in what they expect to be another tough grind in the second round.
“I never doubted the leadership of Bea and we’re happy she came back to play for us on her final year. The second round will be another tough one, even tougher than the first. We need everybody contributing,” he said.
Out to pull down the Lady Eagles are the equally humming Tigresses, winners of their last three assignments.
Currently at joint second place with La Salle with a 5-2 record, UST has successfully moved past the injuries that befell the team early in the tournament, notably that of outside hitter Milena Alessandrini, and playing solid now.
Leading the charge for the Tigresses is the explosive duo of veteran Sisi Rondina and top rookie Eya Laure.
Rondina is the top scorer in the league after the first seven games, averaging 17.4 points per match while coming in second is Laure with 16.7 points.
The two are also the best spikers, with the rookie at number one with a 37.88% success percentage in her spikes while the graduating Rondina is at second at 34.26%.
Their efforts have made the Tigresses the best spiking team in UAAP Season 81 with a success percentage of 31.38%.
Apart from the two, the Tigresses are also getting steady contributions from KC Galdones, Caitlin Viray and Dimdim Pacres to fan their “It’s our time” cause for Season 81.
“We’ll just continue working. That’s key for us,” said Rondina in Filipino of the kind of mindset they should have moving forward.
Meanwhile in the first game, NU and UE hope to start the second round on a high note after having it rough in the opening round.
The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Warriors are led by top 10 league scorers in rookie Princess Robles (14.4 points) and Judith Abil (14.1 points), respectively.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo