MANILA, Philippines -- Will 2010 still be the Year of the UST Tigresses?
Fresh from a grand slam of all the competitions they entered last year, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses are favored to rule the first conference of the Shakey’s V-League 7th season which kicks off on April 11.
The Tigresses won last year’s two conferences en route to a league-best 5 championships overall.
UST will again parade a crack roster reinforced by three former Most Valuable Players (MVP) in team captain Aiza Maizo, setter Rhea Dimaculangan, and guest player Mary Jean Balse.
Also set to power the Tigresses are regular players Angeli Tabaquero, Maika Ortiz, Maruja Banaticla, Denise Santiago, Judy Anne Caballejo, and Jessica Curato, among others.
UST head coach Shaq delos Santos said the team has yet to name its second guest player this conference.
Other UAAP volleyball powerhouses, however, are expected to give the newly-crowned UAAP champions a tough challenge.
Inspired by their best finish in the UAAP, the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles are raring to enter the Final Four this conference after missing the semifinals in the last two conferences.
Leading Ateneo’s talented brew of rookies and veterans are former star player Charo Soriano and Thai import Son Kaewbundit.
The Adamson University Falcons are also billed to duplicate its championship run two seasons ago as they have reportedly signed up Charmaine Moralde and beach volleyball ace Nerissa Bautista.
The Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, on the other hand, hope to continue their dominance in the competition after finishing third last conference.
FEU’s go-to-girl and the UAAP’s season MVP, Mumay Vivas, is tipped to once again carry the Lady Tams to a solid showing in the tournament.
Also out for the crown are the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) perennial volleyball champions, the San Sebastian Lady Stags, which is the only non-UAAP team to win the V-League crown, and the College of St. Benilde Lady Blazers.
A steady Lyceum of the Philippines University is also projected to bounce back from its dismal stints in the competition’s last two conferences with the help of national team mainstay, Nica Guliman and guest player Joy Cases.
Teams from the Visayas, the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod Lady Stingers and the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos Lady Jaguars, will join the V-League early in the eliminations unlike in previous tournaments where they complete the cast come the quarterfinals.
Another team from Cebu, the Southwestern University Lady Cobras, has been tapped to replace the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons, who have decided not to join the competition to concentrate on their own training.
Absent for the third straight conference in the league are UAAP runners-up De La Salle University Lady Archers, who reportedly shunned the organizers’ invitation. -- by Ivan de Lara
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