Ateneo upsets UST, takes on La Salle next in stepladder semis
Ateneo kept its title defense alive after stunning No. 3 UST in straight sets, 25-23, 25-23, 25-20, in the UAAP women’s volleyball stepladder semifinals on Tuesday, June 14 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Faith Nisperos again carried the fight for the fourth-ranked Blue Eagles, who staged impressive comebacks to steal the first two sets on the way to ousting the Eya Laure-led Golden Tigresses.
Nisperos unleashed 23 points built on 17 attacks, 2 blocks, and 4 aces for Ateneo, which also drew key contributions from Vanie Gandler and Jaja Maraguinot.
The Blue Eagles – who will take on fierce rival La Salle next on Thursday – took the longer route to the Final Four, advancing only after winning over Adamson in a playoff for the No. 4 spot last Saturday.
La Salle, the No. 2 seed in the stepladder semifinals, holds a twice-to-beat advantage.
The semifinalists figured in a stepladder format as the NU Lady Bulldogs earned an outright finals berth after completing a 14-0 sweep of the eliminations.
The arduous climb continues for the fourth-seeded defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles as they take on the UST Golden Tigresses at the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball stepladder semifinals on Tuesday, June 14, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fresh off a hard-earned sweep of gutsy Adamson in the fourth-seed playoff last Saturday, June 11, star spiker Faith Nisperos will again have her hands full against the Season 81 runners-up, bannered by MVP candidate Eya Laure.
“Well, going to the next game, we have to prepare as a team, so we will prepare for the team [as a whole],” said Nisperos after squeezing out 22 points in just three sets against Adamson.
“Of course we have to consider Eya, because she’s one of the best scorers in the league, but as I said, we have to prepare as a team.”
Now heading to the Final Four, the Blue Eagles have come a long way from a stunning 0-3 losing start, but the Tigresses – the team Ateneo beat to cop the Season 81 crown – still stand as the next major roadblock to their title defense.
UST, now well-rested and ready for revenge as the third seed, is bent on shoring up its weaknesses as it bears the brunt of Ateneo’s winning momentum on Tuesday.
“We will stick to our routines in training. Our weakest point is what we will cover up first,” said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes in Filipino before the Ateneo-Adamson playoff.
“Once we patch our weaknesses up, hopefully we will be a more complete team when the stepladder comes. The learnings we got from the last 14 games, that’s what we – especially the rookies – will bring to the stepladder.”
Three years ago, when Ateneo and UST last faced against each other in a postseason setting, volleyball fans were glued on screens to watch star-studded casts featuring national team stars like Laure, Sisi Rondina, Deanna Wong, Bea de Leon, and Kat Tolentino.
Apart from Laure, all of those names have moved on from the college ranks due to the pandemic hiatus, and now, new-age stars like Vanie Gandler, Jaja Maraguinot, Imee Hernandez, and Ypril Tapia are raring for their time in the spotlight.
Will UST exact vengeance by dethroning its finals tormentor three years ago, or will Ateneo keep its championship tradition alive toward the next stepladder level?
Game tips off at 6:30 pm. – Rappler.com