La Salle's Aby Marano (2) goes on to block an attack from Ateneo's Ella De Jesus (8)
MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University enters the court as heavy favorites when the reigning three-peat champions square off for a fourth time against archrival Ateneo for the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball crown on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Another jampacked crowd is expected at the Big Dome for the 4 p.m. showdown where the Lady Spikers only need to win twice to remain champs, while the Lady Eagles have to win thrice to snap the Taft-based team’s title streak.
Rust could be a factor though for the Lady Spikers, who are playing for the first time in 18 days since earning the automatic championship berth after sweeping the 14-game eliminations.
Their last match was a 14-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-20 victory over National University (NU) on February 15.
The Lady Eagles, on the other hand, are riding the momentum of their conquest of the NU Lady Bulldogs, the No. 2 seeds who lost their twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semis.
La Salle didn’t give up a set against Ateneo in the first round of eliminations, 25-16, 25-20, 25-16, last January 12 and in the second round, 25-14, 25-14, 25-19, a week later.
But the Finals would be a different story.
In both eliminations victories, the Lady Eagles played without ace rookie Ana Gopico who sustained a season-ending knee injury, while their Thai coach, Anusorn Bundit, had to go back to Bangkok for his national team duties.
La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus knows Ateneo has enough gas left in its tank to grab the elusive championship and complete one of the biggest reversals in league history. The overachieving Lady Eagles have won their last seven games -- a new Ateneo record.
NU, meanwhile, will try to retain the crown in Game 2 of its best-of-three men’s title showdown against finals first-timer Ateneo. The Bulldogs won Game 1, 29-27, 25-22, 25-22, last Saturday.