MANILA, Philippines – A wild and unpredictable UAAP women's volleyball season is down to its final game.
Top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University and second-seeded University of Santo Tomas battle for one last time on Saturday, in the deciding Game 3 of the Season 81 Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Golden Tigresses, bannered by MVP Sisi Rondina and Rookie of the Year Eya Laure, drew first blood with a straight-sets victory in Game 1 last Saturday.
But Ateneo bounced back in Game 2 on Wednesday, leaning on a superb performance by their senior trio of Maddie Madayag, Bea de Leon and Kat Tolentino for a 4-set victory.
That paved the way for a Game 3 – the first time that the UAAP women's volleyball Finals will go the distance since Season 78, when the De La Salle Lady Spikers outlasted the Lady Eagles in Alyssa Valdez's final game for the Blue and White.
This time, it will be the last hurrah for players like De Leon, Madayag, and Rondina.
"Well, it's our last. Actually our last this time," said de Leon, who had 13 points in their win on Wednesday. "So kami, our mindset talaga, whatever happens, we keep praying na we enjoy every moment."
"Whatever happens, whatever is next for us, we made it this far," she added. "That's really big for us, so talaga for us, we're going to Game 3 with grateful hearts, with happy hearts, with love for each other, and love for the game."
Rondina, for her part, admitted that she expected Wednesday to be her last day as a Golden Tigress.
"Hindi pala," she said. "Na-extend pa."
Their loss in Game 2 was costly in more ways than one for the Golden Tigresses. Not only did they squander an opportunity to close out the series, they also saw Laure go down with an ankle injury early in the third set.
She would return later in the frame, but Laure was very clearly ineffective. The rookie would be subbed out, in tears, towards the end of the match while the UST crowd chanted her name.
But Laure is expected to play in Game 3, and that gives Rondina reason to be optimistic.
"Thankful pa rin kami na hindi ganoon kalala 'yung nangyari kay Eya," she said. "Alam kong babawi kami. It's just a bad game."
With her chance for a "good exit" down to one game, Rondina says she will not let the opportunity slip away.
"Sabi nga, whatever it takes," she said. "Doon at doon na lang ang kaya, so push na lang hanggang matapos 'yung liga na 'to."
Both teams are looking to end title droughts. The Lady Eagles last won in Season 77, when Madayag and de Leon were rookies. UST, meanwhile, has not won since Season 72, when a team led by Rhea Dimaculangan, Angge Tabaquero, and Aiza Maizo powered past La Salle.
Game time is at 3:30 p.m.
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