UAAP Season 81 Final Four preview: UST Golden Tigresses vs. De La Salle Lady Spikers

Good news: the De La Salle University Lady Spikers still has a chance to fulfill that elusive four-peat.

Bad news: they are facing an uphill climb against the explosive UST Golden Tigresses who has twice-to-beat advantage

The Golden Tigresses and the Lady Spikers are playing a virtual best-of-five series this season. After splitting their matches during the eliminations, UST claimed the second seed by defeating La Salle in a playoff. The first to three wins will enter the championship series against either the FEU Lady Tamaraws or the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

UST attacking at will

The Golden Tigresses have the enviable position of having the league’s two top scorers. That alone can spell nightmares to opposing teams which was evident in UST’s playoff win over De La Salle.

Cherry Anne Rondina and Eya Laure combined for 46 of UST’s 98 points and the Lady Spikers are left looking for answers. Jolina Dela Cruz will have a difficult time slowing one of them down, much more two. La Salle will have a great chance of extending this to a rubber match if they can neutralize one of them through a solid blocking scheme. More often, Rondina goes for the cross court kills while Laure unleashes down-the-line strikes.

As for UST, they have to devise multiple points of attacks for their two talented spikers. It won’t be enough attacking from Zone 4 alone given that La Salle is a respectable blocking team. They should throw off the Lady Spikers by running some combination plays and distributing the ball fairly evenly between them.

De La Salle’s balance will keep UST guessing

Dela Cruz, Desiree Cheng, Tin Tiamzon, and May Luna can score at will in any given day. But while unpredictability is La Salle’s edge over the Golden Tigresses, it could also be a cause of their downfall. One or two of them having a bad game can spell doom for the three-time defending champions because they become predictable. Therefore, Michelle Cobb’s decision making is vital in activating her wing spikers.

This may be a stretch but De La Salle could consider switching Dela Cruz’ defensive position away from Laure and Rondina. Given that she is the best among the four attackers, they cannot afford for her to expend much energy stopping UST’s main weapons. Pulling off this wrinkle will also give UST the challenge of adjusting to Coach Ramil de Jesus’ game plan.

Likewise, the Lady Spikers still has the slight edge at the middle with Des Clemente and Aduke Ogunsanya. But it remains to be seen how will they respond to even bigger pressure.

How can UST advance to the Finals?

Aside from exploiting their advantage with Rondina and Laure, the Golden Tigresses should also unleash a strong service game. They had a slight edge in aces in their playoff game against La Salle. However, it won’t always be aces. They can still make it harder for the receivers to control the first ball to limit good opportunities.

UST should also activate Caitlyn Viray and Kecelyn Galdones to keep La Salle’s middle defense honest. Getting at least seven points from both of them will imporve their chances of winning.

How can La Salle overcome the disadvantage?

The Lady Spikers must take away UST’s X’s and O’s. That X would be Rondina and Laure would be the O. If they can’t do it through blocking, make their two attackers play defense to sap some of their power on offense. Slowing them both would be a tall order. But if they can limit one of them to less than 15 points, their odds of extending their season for one more game will increase.