Rappler Preview: Ateneo, La Salle clash at MOA Arena
DLSU Lady Spikers (11-1) vs ADMU Lady Eagles (9-3)
When they last met… In Round One, De La Salle University’s championship experience spelled the difference.
Down two sets to none, the Lady Spikers rose from the dead and proved steadier down the stretch to post a scintillating 26-28, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21, 15-13 triumph.
More importantly, the win allowed the two-time defending champs to tie their victims on top, snapping Ateneo de Manila University’s six-game winning streak in the process.
Why this game is important…
For La Salle: Already assured of the first twice-to-beat advantage, the Lady Spikers get bragging rights and more momentum if they win this titanic clash that is expected to draw thousands of fans to the Mall of Asia Arena.
A win will also lock La Salle into the #1 position at the end of the elimination round, silence doubters --- if there’s anyone left even after an 11-game winning streak --- and further fuel their run to a three-peat.
For Ateneo: The Lady Eagles hope to solidify their hold of the #2 seed in the Final Four, something they almost lost when they succumbed to a three-game skid bridging the first and second rounds.
Good thing for Ateneo’s rabid fans, the Katipunan squad has seemed to finally regain their bearings just in time to make a final push for a twice-to-beat spot. Vengeance will be sweet, too, for the Lady Eagles, who have lost three straight to La Salle dating back to the Season 74 finals.
For La Salle: Michele Gumabao. It’s no secret that La Salle has an abundance of gunners, but it’s Gumabao, together with MVP Abi Marano, who anchors the Lady Spikers’ stonewall of a defense. The comely two-time Best Blocker always brings her A-game against Ateneo, and if she does it again, La Salle is in a wonderful position to win.
For Ateneo: Gretchen Ho. Despite La Salle’s solid defense, Alyssa Valdez will be there to bring the goods for the Lady Eagles. But for them to win, they would have to show not one, not two, not three, but at least four reliable scoring options to pull the rug from under the Lady Spikers. Ho has proven to be productive given the chance and Saturday might be a nice opportunity to rise to the occasion.
And the winner is… La Salle is peaking at the right time and it is tough to beat a team like them --- complete with all able players and flushed with championship experience. Ateneo will not go down without giving a fight but the Lady Spikers’ experience, depth and defense will once again spell the difference. They are just too much. La Salle in four sets.
NU Lady Bulldogs (6-5) vs UST Golden Tigresses (6-5)
When they last met… The first UAAP meeting between Dindin Santiago and her former team was highly-anticipated for its perceived drama. Alas, the Lady Bulldogs had other plans and simply breezed through the Tigresses in four sets.
Santiago proved too much for UST’s defense as the six-foot-one spiker amassed 24 points to lead NU to a mild upset, 25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-13.
Why this game is important…
For NU: The Lady Bulldogs have yet to display a semblance of consistency. But entering this tough stretch where they have to win all of their remaining games, NU will approach the match like it is: a win-or-go-home outing that will define their season.
For UST: It’s the same thing for the underachieving Tigresses, who were tabbed as possible challengers to La Salle, especially after they won their opening match against the two-time defending champs. But UST has been up-and-down all throughout and with their backs against the wall, it’s now or never for the crowd darlings.
For NU: Cai Nepomuceno. In her last year for the Lady Bulldogs, Nepomuceno must go out and typify the grit that NU needs to show in its final stab at glory. She has been a solid blocker this year, but setter Ivy Perez must go to her a little bit more on offense for them to win.
For UST: Maru Banaticla. Save for one impressive game, Banaticla has been like UST --- a disappointment in Season 75. But hopefully, a breakout game against the Lady Bulldogs is what is needed to light the fire in Banaticla’s belly. If it happens, expect the Tigresses to come charging back and be dangerous come playoff time.
And the winner is… It really depends on who falters more. Both are talented squads, but NU’s penchant for giving away points like they’re Santa has cost them a number of games. On the other hand, UST’s nagging inconsistency has pulled them down the ladder. The Lady Bulldogs have more proven gunners this season and that would be an advantage on Saturday. NU in four sets.