MANILA, Philippines – Former La Salle volleyball star Michele Gumabao placed the pressure on Lady Spikers setter Kim Fajardo ahead of the defending champions’ showdown against archrivals Ateneo in the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball finals.
On “The Score,” Gumabao said it will be up to Fajardo to put together the plays for La Salle in such a way that they can overcome the much-improved Ateneo defense.
“It’s Kim Fajardo, because she will demand the plays, she will construct the play, so lahat ng mangyayari sa court, kagagawan niya ‘yun,” Gumabao said when asked about a potential x-factor in the series.
“The defense of Ateneo is very good this year, they’ve improved a lot,” added Gumabao, who played against Ateneo in the past two Finals. “So when Kim Fajardo sets, kailangan open block, para hindi na makuha ng Ateneo.”
“’Yun ang pressure na matatanggap niya. Kailangan magaling siya mag-set this year.”
Fajardo is the front-runner for the season’s “Best Setter” award, and will match wits against Ateneo rookie Julia Morado in the Finals.
La Salle has a thrice-to-beat advantage in the championship series after winning all 14 games in the elimination round.
For Ateneo, the pressure is on top MVP candidate Alyssa Valdez, according to former Lady Eagle Dzi Gervacio.
“(Alyssa) is the team captain, so everyone would be listening to her for advice or for orders and what do inside the court,” she explained.
“Statistically, she’s number on in service, I think, and everyone – including the crowd – want her to step up in the Finals game,” she added.
Valdez was on a mission in Ateneo’s two step-ladder games against National University, scoring 29 points in the first game to force a do-or-die contest, then scoring 22 points – including the game-winning kill – in Ateneo’s win last Saturday to power the team to a third straight Finals appearance.