It was May 2014 when they last met at the finals of the 11th season of SVL Collegiate Conference where the FEU Lady Tamaraws defeated the NU Lady Bulldogs in straight sets in both games, 26-24,26-24, 25 -23 and 25-21, 25 -23, 25 – 18 to clinch the championship title.
Back then, it was Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga who were leading the attack line of the Tamaraws, and it was the season’s MVP, Dindin Santiago-Manabat who carried the scoring load for the Bulldogs.
3 years later, the same schools now bannering a different set of stars, will clash again at the same venue. Will history repeat itself or will Jaja Santiago and the rest of the Lady Bulldogs write their own history?
Let’s look at the match up:
SPK: 33.84% (#1)
BLK: 1.56 (#6)
SRV: 2.61 (#3)
DIG: 11.89% (#10)
SET: 9.94 (#2)
RCV: 22.87% (#7)
SPK: 30.08% (#5)
BLK: 1.61 (#4)
SRV: 2.89 (#2)
DIG: 16.22% (#2)
SET: 9.72 (#3)
RCV: 20.12% (#11)
NU is the only team in the conference with a record left unscathed. They are bannered by the prowess of their young setter Jasmin Nabor, who dictates the pace and experienced trio of Aiko Urdas, Risa Sato and Jorelle Singh. But if there is one player that the F. Jhocson squad should most be proud of – it would be Jaja Santiago
There is no denying that Santiago is one of the best volleybelles on the local scene. Young at 21, she has various accolades tucked in her belt – MVP plums, individual positional awards; you name it. Her most recent achievement was an invitation to be part of Bangkok Glass as a foreign import, a feat only shared by her National Team mate, Alyssa Valdez.
The 6-foot-5 middle blocker was ranked 4th in scoring (72), and 1st In spikes (40.82 % eff.) at the end of the elimination round.
Santiago truly is NU’s hero with the ability to single handedly bail them out of trouble if needed. But take it from the Avengers – a hero can save the day, but group of heroes can take it to the next level.
What should they focus on?
After solving their setter enigma of the past seasons by moving Nabor to the position, now comes their backline defense. NU’s waterloo is primarily their floor defense. They are ranked #10 and #7 at both digs and service receives, respectively. They need to be wary of their transition defense as FEU can punish them in so many ways.
It is crucial that Gayle Valdez takes full responsibility for their backline defense because Nabor is such a talented setter that can transition a poor first ball into a decent play. Feed Nabor with decent first balls so that she can utilize Roselyn Doria, Sato and Jaja in the middle.
FEU’s line up is certainly strong on paper. It has a variety of wingers that can deliver once sent into battle in the likes of ChinChin Basas, Jerilli Malabanan, and Heather Guino-o. It has tall and agile towers that can provide net defense in Czarina Carandang and Jeanette Villereal, and a solid tandem of liberos in Buding Duremdes and Kyle Atienza.
But their star that shines the most is Bernadeth Pons. It took the heroics of the 5’7’’ Talisay native to bail them out of trouble against the gritty, young Lady Falcons in Game 3 of the semi-finals. Posting a 15 points and providing double digits digs and receives, the fifth year player’s performance showed the fans just how committed she is to winning as many titles as possible before graduating.
What should they focus on?
FEU’s team statistics are definitely on top compared to NU Lady Bulldogs’ except for their service receives. Being in the bottom of the table in the receiving department (#11) will definitely not aid their campaign at all as NU’s service efficiency is at par with them at #3.
To further aggravate the situation is that their setters tend to choose their wings when they can’t get a decent first ball, something that they need to be careful of as NU’s blockers can simply zero in on them. What they need to capitalize is a fast transition defense led by Duremdes, and use of other players like Carandang that can provide help in scoring points.
First round meeting recap
NU def FEU in 4 sets, 22-25, 28-26, 29 -27, 25 -22.
The two teams were dead-even offensively, scoring on 56 spikes apiece, but the Lady Bulldogs had a slight edge on service aces, 10-8, and errors, 32-35. Although NU was over powered by FEU in digs and receives, it was the FEU’s crucial errors that cost them set 2 and 3, and eventually the match.
Individual Points: Santiago (26), Urdas (15), Singh (9), Paran(7), Sato (7), Nabor (5), Valdez(L)
Sets: 21.38% excellent sets pecentage
Offense: 34.78 % attack percentage
Defense: Digs – 35.71% & Receive – 30.43%
Errors: 8 EPS
Individual Points: Pons (18), Basas (10), Guino-o (9), Negrito (8), Domingo (7), Malabanan (6), Cayuna (4), Carandang (3), Villareal (2), Agudo (1), Atienza (L), Duremdes (L)
Sets: 18.54% excellent sets
Offense: 31.11 % attack percentage
Defense: Digs: 42.77% Receive: 33.33%
Errors: 8.75 EPS
Players Match Up
Scoring Load: Jaja vs Pons+Basas
Should Pons play this Game 1, it would be a fun to watch on how both teams equalize each other with their sharp kills and heavy spikes. I’ll go for FEU on this one, with a slight advantage
Middles: Risa+Jaja vs Carandang+Villareal
No question about it, it’s NU by a mile but I would love to see Carandang’s performance delivering the same as their last 2 games where she scored in double digits
Setting: Nabor vs Negrito+Cayuna
It’s definitely NU. Nabor can play slow high sets like Kim and can transition into a Jia’s low fast sets quickly. On top of them, she’s one heck of a scoring setter that could dump and spike the ball on a second touch.
Backline Defense: Valdez vs Duremdes + Atienza
I’ll go for FEU for this one. Valdez for her part should look up to her senior, Jen Reyes as inspiration.
Predictions for Game 1
The probability of winning depends on whether Pons will play or not. I’ll go with NU on this one on a 60% chance of winning should Pons not play, but it would be a dog fight dragging them to 5 sets should she play.