The UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball gets more competitive as the tournament progresses. Since its opening, there were only two straight set matches out of the 12 games; last February 23, NU and DLSU defeated UE and Adamson, respectively, in just three sets.
And though it is too early to make bold predictions, and despite our inclination to support a certain team, the strongest contenders for the semifinals reveal themselves through impressive display of athleticism.
Here’s a fun and fearless forecast on teams which will most likely make it to the Final Four, from a fan’s perspective.
DLSU Lady Archers
The strength of the De La Salle is not solely banked on its players. Ramil de Jesus’s genius coaching system also buoys the team on the top of the rankings. On their first assignment, they had to face their biggest rivalry, the Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles. Having lost three key players to graduation, there were less expectations on La Salle’s bid to a four-peat.
But the La Salle-Ateneo match was the baptism of fire for the newly tinkered Taft-based squad, after dismantling the Lady Eagles in four sets. The Lady Archers exploited the Lady Eagles’ waterloo as they attacked the former’s reception game through heavy services. Furthermore, DLSU’s efficient attacking and minimal errors buried the Lady Eagles further. The new addition to the team’s starting unit, Jolina dela Cruz, CJ Saga, and May Luna, also played spectacular.
UP Lady Maroons
Entering the season as one of the favorites, the Lady Maroons are living up to the hype that they stirred during the off-season. The Diliman-based squad prevented an early season meltdown as they escaped the gritty UE Lady Warriors in five grueling sets. They continued their winning streak as they pounced on the Lady Tamaraws in four sets on their second assignment. This victory ended the five year-losing streak of the Lady Maroons to the Lady Tamaraws.
One of the key developments for the Lady Maroons is their rejuvenated floor defense. The squad is harvesting the results of converting several players to the Libero position before reverting them to their original position. With this, the Lady Maroons seem to have three defensive specialists in the starting unit in the persons of Justine Dorog, Ayel Estrañero, and libero Mirgie Bautista. Sustaining their strong start is the next challenge for this promising squad. The Lady Maroons have to exorcise the ghost of their season 79 campaign wherein they started 4-0 only to collapse mid season, which put them off the semifinals.
UST Golden Tigresses
The Golden Tigresses entered the season with the most energetic graduating player in Sisi Rondina and the most awaited rookie in Eya Laure. To add to the potency of the wing spikers of the España-based squad, they also paraded last year’s rookie of the year in Milena Alessandrini. On their first game, the Tigresses escaped the new look Adamson squad in five sets. Their aggressive start was taken down a notch by the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
What the Golden Tigresses lack on their middle game, they compensate from their star-studded wing spikers, though there were admissible inconsistencies on their part, too. During the clash with the Lady Falcons, Sisi Rondina admitted that she underperformed, in contrast to opposite spiker Eya Laure who poured in 17 points. On their game against the Lady Eagles, Sisi Rondina bounced back with 20 points, while Eya Laure’s production was limited to 10 points. Imagine what this squad can do if their three wing spikers consistently play their best in all of their matches.
Ateneo Lady Eagles
Following their bridesmaid finish in the Premiere Volleyball League open conference, the Katipunan-based squad marched on to the UAAP wars with a renewed spirit. The Lady Eagles also paraded promising rookies in Vanie Gandler and Jaja Maraguinot who both played well on their off-season debut. On their first match against the ladies from Taft, however, the Lady Archers capitalized on breaking their floor defense which resulted to a four-set loss.
Despite underperforming, the Lady Eagles bounced back against the Golden Tigresses. They repelled the hard hitting troika of Rondina-Laure-Alessandrini by locking down on defense both on the net and on the floor. This quick adjustment on floor defense makes the Lady Eagles still a contender for the open race to the crown.
Featured image by Roc Verdera.
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