MANILA, Philippines – The showdown between University of Santo Tomas (UST) and De La Salle University on Wednesday featured the first match-up between two of the top rookies in UAAP Season 81 – Eya Laure and Jolina dela Cruz.
UST's Laure entered the seniors division with considerably more hype, and has been living up to expectations with an average of 16.75 points per game heading into last Wednesday's contest.
Dela Cruz, meanwhile, has been superb for La Salle as well, norming 13 points per game. The rookie was a bright spot for the Lady Spikers in their first loss of the season, scoring 19 points in their five-set loss to University of the Philippines last Saturday.
In their first showdown in the UAAP, it was Laure who wound up winning the battle and the war. The UST rookie tallied 15 points built on 13 kills, and was a major factor in the Tigresses' 25-20, 25-22, 25-17 upset of the Lady Spikers.
Dela Cruz, for her part, had 8 points, going just 7-of-32 on her spike attempts as La Salle struggled offensively.
But Laure downplayed their match-up and instead commended her fellow rookie for a fine campaign.
"Nagkasama kami sa Asean School Games," Laure said of dela Cruz. "So nag-uusap kami doon."
"Sabi ko basta kung saan ka magpunta, gusto ko kalaro kita. And natutuwa ako kasi nga nakakalaro ko siya," she added.
"Masaya naman ako for her, sa kung ano ang nilalaro niya. I'm happy for her."
Nevertheless, Laure acknowledged that their win over La Salle was a massive confidence-boost for her and the team – especially as they were playing without Fil-Italian spiker Milena Alessandrini. The open spiker has been ruled out of the season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee.
"La Salle is, nasa taas sila. Itong liga na ito, sila 'yung defending champions," Laure pointed out.
"Malaking bagay din, 'yung ma-boost ang confidence namin na kaya din namin," she added. "Malaking bagay, kasi nakaka-boost ng confidence namin na mag-tiwala sa sarili, na kaya pala namin."
Laure and the Golden Tigresses go for their fourth win of UAAP Season 81 on Saturday against National University – another team that features super rookies in Princess Robles and Ivy Lacsina.
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