Ateneo, DLSU spikers collide

Kat Tolentino and Jaja Maraguinot
ATENEO’S Kat Tolentino celebrates a point with setter Jaja Maraguinot during their UAAP women’s volleyball match against University of the Philippines at the Mall of Asia Arena. UAAP PHOTO

ATENEO renews its storied rivalry with La Salle, the only team the defending champion failed to beat last year, in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Gunning for a second straight win, the Lady Eagles are bracing for a tough battle in the 4 p.m. encounter with the debuting Lady Spikers, who remain one of the contenders in the throne despite having eight rookies.

The Lady Eagles and the Lady Spikers had crossed paths in the championship round for six straight years starting in 2012.

Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro would not want to think about the rivalry with La Salle. 

“Yung rivalry, wala lang yun. We’re just going to go hard and play our game,” said Almadro.

If its season-opening 25-13, 25-17, 25-23 win over University of the Philippines was a gauge, Ateneo is looking good for another shot at the throne.

Senior Kat Tolentino, who had 15 points and seven digs in the opener, and rookie Faith Nisperos, who debuted with 10 points, are connecting well with setter Jaja Maraguinot.

Jules Samonte was also solid in her return as a middle blocker, a position that the Lady Eagles needed with the departure of frontliners Bea de Leon and Maddie Madayag.

“Well, Jules had three blocks (against the Fighting Maroons) so I guess that speaks for itself na nakablock siya thats good for a middle blocker, she did her job and we know naman na parang si Ponggay (Gaston) they played a lot of positions,” said Almadro.

“I’m grateful that I have players like that they heed to the needs of the team and they adjust right away,” he added.

Ateneo has also unveiled a gem in first-year libero Roma Mae Doromal, who, like Nisperos, is a product of Nazareth School of National University’s highly-successful girls volleyball program.

The Lady Eagles’ first ball and receiving has been a problem since the departure of do-it-all Denden Lazaro, and Doromal could be the solution.

“I’m satisfied with Roma’s performance a while ago and of course being a rookie kailangan parin mag-improve, marami pa rin kailangan idagdag sa sarili niya and that girl will not stop until she perfects her skill,” said Almadro.

“Silang dalawa ni Faith ay malaking factor for us in this win. We really hope that this blessing na continue lang nito hanggang sa remaining games namin,” he added.

Mystery shrouds the Lady Spikers, who kept their rookies led by middle blocker Thea Gagate and opposite hitter Leila Cruz much away from prying eyes during the off-season. 

But with coach Ramil de Jesus’ championship pedigree, don’t just count La Salle out as it tries to rebound from missing the Finals last year that ended a three-year reign.

“Since marami kaming rookies ngayon, ginawa lang namin yung dapat gawin para sa kanila. This season sobrang balanced ng team. One game at a time. Expect exciting games,” said Noel Orcollo, a long-time assistant for de Jesus.

Providing support for the Lady Spikers’ young guns are Tin Tiamzon, Aduke Ogunsanya, Michelle Cobb, Marionne Alba and libero CJ Saga.

Ateneo and La Salle’s men’s teams will cross paths at 2 p.m.

In the morning session, UP and University of the East collide at 11 a.m. right after their men’s squads take the floor at 9 a.m.