MANILA - Reigning champion De La Salle will gun for an outright championship berth with a thrice-to-beat incentive when it takes on National University (NU) in what could be a preview of the UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball championship on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A win in the 4 p.m. duel replicates the Lady Spikers' feat in 2011-12 when they clinched an automatic finals berth. In 2004, they became outright champions. They went 14-0 in both seasons, prompting the league to adopt a stepladder format in the semifinals.
Adamson University, meanwhile, is seeking a playoff for the remaining post-season berth against also-ran University of Santo Tomas at 2 p.m.
Lady Bulldogs coach Edjet Mabayyad emphasized the need for his troops to strengthen their blocking and floor defense.
"I want them to enjoy the game. Noong first round, masyado silang tight. Na-intimidate agad sa La Salle, hindi nila naipakita kung ano ang dapat laruin," said Mabayyad, referring to NU's straight-set loss in their first meeting this season.
Coach Ramil de Jesus is worried of the Lady Bulldogs' tall frontline advantage, especially with the 6-foot-2 Dindin Santiago and her taller sister, 6-foot-4 Jaja.
"Mataas din ang inilalaro ng NU ngayon compared sa first round. Nag-jell na sila, kaya kailangang paghandaan," said de Jesus.
De La Salle, which only dropped a set this season, will bank on charismatic senior Abi Maraño's leadership, while Mika Reyes will take care of the middle and Ara Galang will provide the spark on offense.
If other Lady Bulldogs' hitters like Mina Aganon, Myla Pablo and Aiko Urdas play their A-game, the Lady Spikers might face a long day.
NU, which won 10 straight, is simply hoping to do away with the step-ladder semis. Regardless of the format, the 12-1 Lady Bulldogs will finish No. 2 in the double-round eliminations and are already assured of a twice-to-beat bonus.
The Lady Falcons blew their golden opportunity to gain headway in the race for the No. 4 slot after a 25-15, 23-25, 20-25, 32-34 loss to the Lady Bulldogs last Sunday.
With a 6-7 slate, Adamson is tied with Far Eastern University, which is seeking to rebound from a disappointing loss to already-eliminated University of the Philippines against Ateneo tomorrow.
A sudden death playoff for the remaining semis slot will ensue if both the Lady Falcons and the Lady Tamaraws win or lose their final elimination round assignment.