MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses and their supporters are in a celebratory mood after they ended an 8-year finals drought in UAAP women's volleyball last Sunday.
With rookie ace Eya Laure leading the way, and team captain Sisi Rondina serving as their steadying force, the Tigresses dethroned three-time defending champion De La Salle University in a five-set thriller to clinch a finals berth in UAAP Season 81.
The Tigresses are still waiting for their opponents in the best-of-3 championship series, as fourth-seeded Far Eastern University (FEU) forced a do-or-die game against top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University for the other finals ticket.
UST head coach Kungfu Reyes made it clear on Sunday that they had no preference.
"Si Ateneo man o si FEU, naka-ready kami kahit sino sa kanila. Wala kaming parang... sana ito manalo, sana si FEU, sana si Ateneo. Wala," he stressed.
"Maghihintay kami kung sinong kalaban namin sa kanila, at ire-ready lang namin ang sarili namin para doon sa gustong mangyari namin," Reyes added.
The Tigresses will thus be very interested spectators when Ateneo and FEU dispute the last finals berth on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
UST and FEU split their elimination round meetings. The Lady Tamaraws pulled off a 19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 27-25 triumph in the first round, but the Tigresses bounced back as they swept their second round meeting, 25-23, 25-18, 25-23.
Ateneo, meanwhile, has had the Golden Tigresses' number so far this year. They won their first round meeting in four sets, 25-21, 25-18, 16-25, 25-22, then mounted a stunning comeback in their second round rematch, overturning two-set deficit for a 19-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-22, 15-11 victory.
UST has not beaten Ateneo since the second round of UAAP Season 74.
Regardless of who they face in the finals, the Tigresses are confident of their chances. Reyes believes that he finally has the right mix of players who can deliver UST's first championship since Season 72, when players like Aiza Maizo and Rhea Dimaculangan were starring for the black and gold.
"Ngayon, I have good ingredients, lulutuin na lang namin. Dati kasi nagluluto kami ng pakbet pero ang gulay namin pang-chop suey," he said. "Hindi talaga kami magkaigi."
"This moment, this time, we have the right ingredients, so pasasarapin na lang namin ang luto namin," he added.
Game 1 of the finals is on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
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