Ateneo nails last semis spot, keeps title defense alive
Ateneo survived Adamson’s huge second-set challenge as the Blue Eagles hacked out a 25-20, 28-26, 25-22 sweep to claim the last semifinal spot in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
Jaja Maraguinot starred with 21 excellent sets as rookie AC Miner and Faith Nisperos also came through to lead the Blue Eagles past the Lady Falcons in the playoff for the No. 4 spot.
The Blue Eagles hope to keep their title defense going in the stepladder semifinals, where they will face the No. 3 UST Tigresses on Tuesday, June 14, at 6:30 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The defending UAAP women’s volleyball champion Ateneo Blue Eagles need to clear one more roadblock on their way to the Season 84 stepladder as they face the Adamson Lady Falcons on Saturday, June 11, for the right to claim the fourth seed.
Ateneo, led by the consistently dominant Faith Nisperos, has come a long way since losing its first three games, and has now won five of its last seven assignments – the most impressive of which is a rousing sweep of third-ranked UST.
Adamson, on the other hand, asserted itself as an offensive powerhouse headed by Trisha Genesis and Louie Romero since day one, and is now on the cusp of snapping an eight-year Final Four drought.
Also backed by the versatile core of Lucille Almonte, Lorene Toring, and Mayang Nuique, the Lady Falcons have proven to be more than capable of beating the defending champs one more time this season after a four-set win in the first round.
The winner of the knockout match will advance to the semifinals against the No. 3 UST Golden Tigresses.
The third-year Genesis knows full well what it means for her school if she can lead the program back to the Final Four, which is why she got visibly emotional after she led Adamson’s rousing four-set win over second-seeded La Salle to force the fourth-seed playoff.
“I really didn’t want to give up on the team. I didn’t want to leave my teammates. Even though I was a bit off and I couldn’t find a groove, I just thought I didn’t want to let my team down. It’s now or never,” she said in Filipino.
But the job is not yet done as Nisperos and the Blue Eagles – who recently beat the Lady Falcons in an extended five-set thriller – stand in the way.
With a backup core of Vanie Gandler, Erika Raagas, AC Miner, and Roma Doromal, Nisperos is definitely not alone in her goal to defend the title her seniors won for them three years ago in Season 81.
“Well, we’re slowly getting there, of course, but we have a lot left to work on. [Against Adamson] we saw a lot of things going well that we worked on, but there are still aspects that need more work. So yes, we’re getting there, but we’re not going to stop,” Nisperos said after dropping a career-high 31 points in their win against the Lady Falcons.
This season, both Ateneo and Adamson have earned wins over the other, and another victory on Saturday will not only net the winner bragging rights over the other, but more importantly, book the last stepladder ticket for a shot to win it all.
Will the Lady Falcons make history by guaranteeing a new champion in their long-awaited return to the Final Four, or will the Blue Eagles – holders of title-or-bust standards for the past decade – live on to fight another day?
Game tips off at 5 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.