By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Celebration or extension?
That is the scenario on hand today as Game Two of the best-of-three finals in women’s volleyball of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 is to be played at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Carrying a 1-0 lead in the series, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses go for the closeout and notch their first UAAP title in nine years while the top seeds Ateneo Lady Eagles look to stay alive and force a decider at the weekend.
UST got hold of control of the series after an impressive performance in the series-opener on May 11, where it made its way to a straight-sets victory, 25-17, 25-16 and 25-20.
Graduating captain Sisi Rondina was stellar anew for the Tigresses, leading the charge with 23 points, 20 of which came off attacks.
The win was a continuation of the fine form of UST of late, having won seven straight since the windup of the elimination round, and the good tidings it has been receiving that has seen it claim the second seed and the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four and dethrone the De La Salle Lady Spikers in the semifinals at the first instance.
Giving Rondina ample support in Game One were super rookie Eya Laure, who finished with 11 points, and Caitlin Viray, Ysa Jimenez and Alina Bicar, who combined for 19 points.
Happy of taking control of the series and moving a win away from the much-sought-after title, the Tigresses have expressed determination to go all the way for it today but not without expecting a tough challenge from the Lady Eagles who they see as coming back with adjustments to their game.
“This is a good win for our morale. We have to continue playing at the present, work on our goal step by step. We had our game plan and studied Ateneo’s game to counter them. And the players stepped up,” said UST coach Kungfu Reyes after Game One.
“We are now in this position and we will try our best to claim the title in the next game,” he added.
For Ateneo, it hopes to bounce back after not being able to take flight at all last time around.
Only Kat Tolentino managed to score in double-digits for the Lady Eagles in Game One with 12 points.
Maddie Madayag and Jules Samonte had six points each while Bea De Leon and Ponggay Gaston were only good for four and a point, respectively.
Such low output did not help the cause of Ateneo, which played catch-up for much of the contest.
Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro said they are going back to the drawing board after the loss and hoping to come up with a better showing in Game Two.
Game Two of the UAAP finals is set for 4 p.m. but prior to it the annual individual awards ceremony will be held.
Leading the awardees is Rondina, named Season 81 most valuable player as well as best scorer and second best open spiker.
Her teammate Laure is rookie of the year and first best open spiker.
Ateneo’s Tolentino is best opposite spiker while National University’s Roselyn Doria is first best blocker and Ateneo’s Madayag second best blocker.
Kath Arado of University of the East is best libero while teammate Lai Bendong is best setter.
NU rookie Princess Robles is best server.