Lady Eagles, Tigresses open title showdown

COACH Oliver Almadro has summed up what Ateneo can offer against University of Santo Tomas in their first-ever UAAP women's volleyball Finals showdown.

“We will give them a beautiful game, yun ang samin,” said Almadro.

The Lady Eagles hope to live up to the billing as heavy favorites when they face the Tigresses in the best-of-three championship opener at 4 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Ateneo has swept UST in their elimination round head-to-head this season and has won 14 consecutive matches in the last seven years.

But for Almadro, throw those away from the window, as the Tigresses will enter the championship oozing with confidence with a six-game winning streak.

“Alam naman natin sa umpisa pa lang yung firepower ng UST. Tapos they are well-rested, so yun ang advantage,” said Almadro, who is seeking to win his first title as Ateneo women's coach after a successful run of three championships in the men's side.

While the Tigresses needed only one game to dethrone La Salle in the Final Four, the Lady Eagles survived a pesky Far Eastern University in the other pairing to make a return trip to the Finals.

Aside from the championship experience, Ateneo having gone to two grueling Final Four matches is expected to put into good use against UST, which is back in the title round after eight years.  

“Yung mental toughness, yung heart, yung will, tumibay,” said Almadro after winning their hard-fought series against the Tamaraws.

For skipper Bea de Leon, she and her fellow middle hitter Maddie Madayag hope to finish what they have started.  De Leon and Madayag were rookies when Ateneo won its second straight title in 2015.

“Siyempre, there’s one more job left to do, but we’re thankful we got this one na,” said De Leon.

The teamwork that keyed the Tigresses' run to the Finals is what they needed to give do-it-all captain Sisi Rondina a grand exit.

Rondina, the presumptive season MVP, was simply glad that her teammates other than rookie Eya Laure have stepped up as of late for UST.

Given the fact that the Lady Eagles has a huge edge in blocking, coach Kungfu Reyes hopes that the Tigresses will compensate this disadvantage through other skills.

“Against Ateneo we expect to have a hard time in our attacks because they have taller players. But in terms of skills we are up there with them and we would not allow ourselves to be dominated,” said Reyes.

In the men's division, back-to-back title-seeking National University and FEU open their own best-of-three series at 12 noon.