Season 94 Finals preview: Dynasty or Destiny?

With the NCAA Season 94 best-of-three women’s volleyball championship starting tomorrow at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan City, the overriding story line is whether the Arellano Lady Chiefs will extend their dynasty or will the Perpetual Lady Altas end their reign. Before the war commences, let’s look at the match-ups per position in what’s shaping up to be a thrilling face-off for the title.

Wing Spikers

It will be a battle between two high scoring open spikers in Necole Ebuen and Cindy Imbo. Ebuen has been very consistent all season long and has been the menace for all teams. Meanwhile, last year’s Rookie of the Year will have much help in Season 93 Finals MVP Regine Arocha and Alyana San Gregorio on the wings.

On the other hand, Imbo has proven that she can carry the scoring load for the Lady Altas. Just look at her 32-point performance against the CSB Lady Blazers and you’ll know that she is a marked woman by the net defenders of Coach Obet Javier. But aside from Coach Michael Carino establishing a game plan to reduce Arellano’s offensive onslaught, the likes of Yanca Tripoli, Jhona Rosal, graduating Jowie Verzosa, and rookie Hannah Suico should bring their game a notch higher.

Advantage: Arellano

Middle Blockers

Arellano has produced great middle blockers through the years such as CJ Rosario, Shirley Salamagos, Andrea Marzan and Anne Esguerra. Now, both positions of the Lady Chiefs are manned by Mikaela Juanich and Carla Donato who has been steady for the Lady Chiefs

On the other hand, Shyra Umandal and Jenny Gaviola are following in the footsteps of Sandra Delos Santos, Lourdes Clemente and Coleen Bravo. Arellano’s middle game has been quiet as of late and that’s why I give a slight advantage to the Lady Altas here.

Advantage: Perpetual

Setters

This will be a battle of two of the smartest setters in the NCAA today. Rhea Ramirez and Necelle Gual are veterans in their own right and have played in the commercial level in different times. Ramirez is the driver running the Lady Chiefs’ motor with her quick sets and plays. Gual has improved year after year and has distributed the ball among her spikers with efficiency. Both players are of equal but we’ll give Ramirez the advantage for her championship experience.

Advantage: Arellano

Libero

Both the Lady Chiefs and Lady Altas alternate their liberos. Arellano has Faye Anne Flores and Cherry Buemia while Perpetual has rookie Sandra Beatrice Dayao and spiker turned libero Alyssa Sangalang. The two pairs have proven their worth as defensive specialists for their squads but it seems like Flores is still the best among all four, giving the Lady Chiefs the edge.

Advantage: Arellano

Coaches

Javier and Cariño own the last four NCAA women’s volleyball titles and they both have extensive coaching experience. Javier was a head tactician for the UE juniors volleyball team, an assistant for the Tacloban Fighting Warays, and a head coach for Cocolife in the 2017 PSL Invitational.

Aside from being the head coach of the championship-winning CSB Lady Blazers in Season 91, Cariño mentored the Cignal Men’s team in the Spikers Turf and is the lead assistant for the Men’s National team during the 2017 SEA games. Experience wise, Cariño has the advantage. Championship wise, Javier has the upper hand. It will just be a battle of wits between two exceptional tacticians with contrasting coaching styles.

Advantage: Draw

While Arellano is the better team on paper, Perpetual is the hottest team coming into the Finals, having won three straight do-or-die games dating back to their last elimination round game against the JRU Lady Bombers. Their heightened confidence will help them compete against the Lady Chiefs tit for tat. This is shaping up to be an exciting series that you should tune in to.