MANILA, Philippines—The UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball finals will feature a fresh match-up as top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University takes on No. 2 University of Santo Tomas in a best-of-3 series starting Saturday.
The Lady Eagles are making their seventh finals appearance in the past 8 seasons, but this is the first time ever that they will play the Golden Tigresses. Ateneo played archrival La Salle in each of their first six championship stints.
UST, for its part, is playing in the finals for the first time since Season 73, when the Tigresses were swept by the Lady Spikers.
Game 1 of the best-of-3 series is at Araneta Coliseum, and Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro gives UST an advantage due to its longer break.
"Well, alam naman natin sa umpisa pa lang, talagang firepower ang UST, and they are well-rested, so ’yun ang advantage," he noted.
The Golden Tigresses, powered by the tandem of Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure, ousted defending champion La Salle in their own final 4 match-up last Sunday. Meanwhile, Ateneo needed 2 games to take care of fourth-seeded Far Eastern University.
Thus, the Lady Eagles will have just 2 days to prepare for UST, a team that is aching to grab its first UAAP women's championship since 2010.
"We will give them a beautiful game," Almadro said of UST.
The Lady Eagles won both of their elimination round games against the Golden Tigresses, including a thrilling 5-set triumph in the second round that saw Ateneo claw its way out of a two-set deficit. Starring in that triumph was Maddie Madayag, who recorded a UAAP-record 11 blocks.
Yet it was also Madayag who was the first to shrug off their elims record against the Golden Tigresses, who enter the finals with a 6-match winning streak
"Ibang usapan naman ang finals sa elimination round," said Madayag. "For sure, both teams will give everything the got."
"It all boils down to character," she stressed.
The Lady Eagles will draw strength from their difficult final 4 series against the Lady Tamaraws as they head to the championship series, said Almadro. Ateneo played on Wednesday with its backs against the wall, having lost to FEU in 5 sets on Saturday.
In their do-or-die game, however, the Lady Eagles stood firm and claimed a 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-14 victory to secure the Finals ticket.
"Siguro, 'yung mental toughness namin, 'yung heart and will namin, medyo tumibay," said Almadro of his team.
"Andoon kasi 'yung edge na nawala 'yung advantage namin eh. 'Yun siguro ang mentality na kailangan naming dalahin, at maging advantage namin 'yung heart and will, lalo na sa Finals."
UST has not beaten Ateneo since UAAP Season 74, with the Lady Eagles owning a 14-match winning streak against the Golden Tigresses.
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