La Salle ousts Ateneo, claims last title berth
Showing mastery of its rival anew, La Salle overpowered Ateneo in straight sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23, to claim the last championship berth in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament on Thursday, June 16.
Thea Gagate, Leiah Malaluan, and Jolina dela Cruz led the imposing charge of the “Taft Towers” as the Lady Spikers ended the Cinderella run of the fourth-ranked Blue Eagles in the stepladder semifinals.
But after dethroning rival Ateneo, the second-ranked La Salle faces an even bigger challenge as the Lady Spikers take on the unbeaten NU Lady Bulldogs in the finals.
Game 1 of the best-of-three title series kicks off on Saturday, June 18.
(READ: La Salle ends Ateneo fairy tale stepladder run, sets up finals series against NU)
For the first time since UAAP Season 73, the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the La Salle Lady Spikers face off in a women’s volleyball Final Four setting at the next Season 84 stepladder stage on Thursday, June 16.
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Ramil de Jesus-coached Lady Spikers are certainly fired up for a chance to not only advance to the championship round against unbeaten National University, but also dethrone their sworn rivals in the process.
NU earned an outright finals berth after a 14-0 sweep of the elimination round, leaving the other semifinalists to duke it out in a stepladder semifinals.
Far removed from a lackluster 2-2 start to the season, the La Salle core of Jolina dela Cruz, Thea Gagate, Justine Jazareno, and super rookie Leiah Malaluan are expected to pick up where they left off after the elimination round with sustained elite play.
Like the No. 2 Lady Spikers, however, the defending champion Blue Eagles are no longer the up-and-down team they once were at the beginning of the tournament, and have now survived their last three do-or-die battles, capped by a stunning ouster sweep of UST.
As their Cinderella run continues to gain steam, the new-age Ateneo stars led by Faith Nisperos have drawn likenesses to the Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles, who overcame a thrice-to-beat disadvantage against La Salle to win the Season 76 title.
Honored as head coach Oliver Almadro may be of the comparison, he is set on keeping his players to aspects they can control, and blocking outside noise.
“Different times, different measures. This team has adjusted differently, and their sacrifices have also been different,” he said after upsetting No. 3 UST in the stepladder semifinals.
“What’s important is, if we can duplicate what they did, we will be thankful to the Lord, and of course, we will be thankful for them for being our inspiration. That’s a big thing, if the players will be inspired.”
Can Ateneo continue writing its own original chapter in UAAP history or will La Salle spoil a budding fairy tale ending for its longtime rival?
Game tips off at 6:30 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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