Ten years ago, the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons were duelling one another -- to stay out of the cellar. The National University Lady Bulldogs were in that fight as well except they finished at the bottom of the UAAP pile.
Ten years later, the Ateneo Lady Eagles are two-time champions, UP is on the rise, while NU has been a contender in the past three years.
The landscape sure has changed for women’s volleyball in the country and upsurge is an understatement.
And the UP Lady Maroons have barged into that popularity with its performances in the past two seasons. Their biggest win? That four-setter against Ateneo last Sunday that not only rocked the UAAP women’s volleyball standings but also served notice to everyone that they are not going away.
Incidentally, it was their first win against Ateneo in nine years. To be the champion, you have to go through the champion and the UP Lady Maroons are ready to break out and challenge for the title.
At 5-3, they have taken down three of the best teams in the league in succession — UST, NU and Ateneo — winning nine sets and losing only two.
How are the Lady Maroons getting it done?
1. Their wondrous rookies
Under Jerry Yee, UP has improved its recruitment. Their first year players Isa Molde, Diana Carlos, Justine Dorog, and Aieshalaine Gannaban have given State U some valuable firepower and contributions. And to think they have Sheena Chopitea still riding the bench.
Molde and Carlos finished with six and five excellent digs respectively so you know they are getting the job done on both ends of the court. That is the kind of impact they have made.
You mix that with their veterans Kathy Bersola, Nicole Tiamzon, and Princess Gaiser who still have a playing year in them, they can only get better. Who knows where they will stop this year?
The Lady Maroons have vastly improved their floor defense. They are fourth best in receiving and second best in digging. Plus, they are third best at blocking. Arielle Estra-ero finished with 21 excellent receptions -- that’s nine more than Ateneo libero Jamie Lavitoria.
In their second round match with Ateneo, it was a reversal as they dug almost every ball sent their way. Being able to block Alyssa Valdez in succession while stopping Maddie Madayag kept Ateneo in check.
3. Balanced scoring
Four players finished in double digit scoring against Ateneo — Isa Molde led the way with 15, Tiamzon and Carlos each had 12 while Bersola added 10. Furthermore, the booming serves of Carlos really gave Ateneo fits.
Hard to stop a team when they are putting the hurt on you in so many ways.
One key move during the match was having Tiamzon take over from Jewel Lai as setter in the second frame. Tiamzon’s ability to set, dig, and hit gives UP a different dimension. And right now, I think she is the most versatile player in the league.
At 5-3, UP can stay in step with the leaders when it faces faltering Adamson this Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.