POTENT as ever, defending champion La Salle overcame fierce rival Ateneo, 25-14, 25-17, 16-25, 25-19, to set on motion its four-peat bid in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament last night before 17,166 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The swag was still there for the Lady Spikers, as Desiree Cheng provided the leadership, while rookie Jolina dela Cruz shone in her first collegiate game to power the Taft-based squad in bagging the first win.
Earlier, Eya Laure had a scintillating debut as University of Santo Tomas withstood a Adamson scare to fashion out a 25-21, 25-21, 24-26, 24-26, 15-6 victory.
Cheng finished with 13 points, 14 receptions and nine digs, Dela Cruz made an immediate impact with 11 points, while May Luna also scored 11, including key hits late in the fourth set that kept La Salle in the lead.
The defeat spoiled the debut of Oliver Almadro as the new Lady Eagles coach.
“Hindi madaling kalaban ang Ateneo,” said multi-titled Lady Spikers coach Ramil de Jesus on facing his former assistant Almadro for the first time. “Nag-aadjust pa rin siya. Pero eventually maipapatakbo din niya ang team ng maayos.”
Kat Tolentino paced Ateneo with 16 hits and 10 digs.
The long wait to play in college was worth it for Laure, who shared the scoring the mantle with Sisi Rondina with 17 points, to help the Tigresses score their first opening day win in more than four years that means a lot for coach Kungfu Reyes.
The last time UST won a season opener was on Nov. 22, 2014, a 25-11, 25-12, 25-14 victory over University of the East.
“Actually, in the past three seasons, lahat ng first game namin talo. This one is very historic for us,” said Reyes.
In men’s play, Tony Koyfman had a triumphant return with 15 points, while Chum Njigha and Janjan Rivera each scored 10 hits as Ateneo opened its post-Marck Espejo era with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-15 win over La Salle, while Pao Pablico had 23 points while Leo Miranda added 13 hits as Adamson outlasted UST, 33-31, 23-25, 16-25, 25-16, 16-14.