Shortly after La Salle booked a return flight to the finals of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament against bitter rival Ateneo, coaches were quick to pick the Lady Spikers as heavy favorites in their best-of-three titular showdown.
University of the East coach Francis Vicente said La Salle’s rock-solid defense on both ends and its army of spikers will play a crucial role in the battle, which serves as the fifth installment of what is billed as UAAP’s greatest rivalry.
Vicente said Ateneo’s sloppy floor defense could doom its chances as well as its lack of options in the firing end aside from star hitter Alyssa Valdez.
[quote]“Key for La Salle is blocking and libero.”[/quote]
[quote cite=’Francis Vicente, coach (UE)’]“The weakness for Ateneo, on the other hand, is that there is only one gunner in Alyssa Valdez. If La Salle will target Valdez from the service box, she will get tired and will not be able to play her usual game.”[/quote]
Vicente, however, noted that the late inclusion of Sherwin Meneses in the coaching staff of Anusorn Bundit could work to the Lady Eagles’ advantage, especially on the defensive end.
After all, Meneses has a reputation for being a defense specialist while calling the shots for Adamson University early in the tournament. He could fix the Lady Eagles’ sagging floor defense, which the Lady Spikers exposed in their first-round encounter.
[quote cite=’Francis Vicente, coach (UE)’]“That’s why they hired Mr. Meneses.”[/quote]
Kungfu Reyes of University of Santo Tomas said hunger and desire will be the main factors in this series.
He explained that La Salle is the hungrier team after surrendering the title to Ateneo for the past two years. Even worst, the Lady Spikers sputtered down the crucial stretch of this tourney when it lost to Ateneo in the second round and to Far Eastern University in the Final Four.
[quote cite=’Kungfu Reyes, coach (UST)’]“I give it to La Salle. It is hungrier than Ateneo after losing for the past two years. And knowing La Salle, it is like a wounded lion which gets stronger whenever the odds are stacked against it.”[/quote]
Reyes, however, believes that Valdez has a personal mission to accomplish.
[quote cite=’Kungfu Reyes, coach (UST)’]“This series is very important to Alyssa because she wants to match the three titles she won in high school. This is her last chance. Although La Salle has an advantage, I think Ateneo will not go down without putting up a good fight.”[/quote]
UP coach Jerry Yee agreed.
[quote cite=’Jerry Yee, coach (UP)’]“La Salle is the safe choice. It has the league’s deepest bench and its blocking and attacks are second to none. This is going to be a very exciting series. Ateneo’s resolve will be tested; that’s for sure.”[/quote]
But still Reyes thinks that the battle between Ateneo and La Salle will extend up to Game 3.
And in the end, when the crown and glory are on the line, the Lady Eagles and Lady Spikers will surely look like two bloodied prizefighters eager to land that knockout blow.
[quote cite=’Kungfu Reyes, coach (UST)’]“With the way I see it, I think the series will go the distance. It will boil down to who is hungrier, to who wants it more.”[/quote]