RIVALS and UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball top teams Ateneo Lady Eagles and De La Salle Lady Spikers meet up for the second time this year in a marquee match set for Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The game headlines a busy weekend for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines that would see the Final Four picture take further form after everything is said and done.
League-leading Ateneo (10-1) looks to avenge its lone loss of the season so far against La Salle (8-3) and continue its impressive run of 10 straight victories.
The Lady Eagles absorbed a four-set defeat at the hands of the Lady Spikers, 25-14, 25-17, 16-25 and 25-19, on opening weekend last February where the latter showed tremendous drive and steadiness to book the win.
Kat Tolentino finished with 16 points for the Lady Eagles but it was not enough to tow her team over La Salle, which had Des Cheng (13), May Luna (11) and rookie Jolina Dela Cruz (11) all finishing in double-digits.
After that loss, however, Ateneo has channelled the unstoppable, racking up victories after victories en route to being the first to book a spot in the UAAP Season 81 Final Four.
Tolentino continues to lead the Lady Eagles in scoring with a fourth league-best 15.1-point average.
Backstopping her are veterans Maddie Madayag (12.2 points), Ponggay Gaston (8.8) and Bea De Leon (8.5).
The latest of Ateneo’s wins was a four-sets victory over the National University Lady Bulldogs on April 7.
La Salle, for its part, has won its last three matches and is angling to fortify its hold of the second spot, if not pip Ateneo for the top seed.
Cheng leads a balanced Lady Spikers attack with 11.3 points per game, followed by Dela Cruz with 10.5 and Aduke Ogunsanya with 8.4 points.
“We hope to do a repeat on them,” said La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus, whose team is coming off a 25-15, 25-18 and 25-16 win over the Adamson Lady Falcons last Sunday.
The Ateneo-La Salle second-round match is set for 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, playing in the 2 p.m. curtain-raiser on Saturday are also-rans University of the East Lady Warriors (2-9) and Adamson (1-10).
On Sunday, April 14, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons (6-6) try to stay alive in the Final Four race when they take on NU (3-9) at 2 p.m.
In the main game at 4 p.m., the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses and Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, at joint third place with 8-4 records, shoot for the all-important win that officially books for them a spot in the semifinals. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo