Race to UAAP Final Four: Who will make it to the top?
MANILA, Philippines – As we count down the days until the 79th UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament elimination rounds come to a close, spectators and analysts alike get a preview of which teams can sustain the energy to reach a coveted Final Four ticket.
With two weeks of elimination games still on the table, contending teams must make the most out of every match as we enter a crucial stage in the competition. As 6 squads vie for a shot at this year’s title, only those who step up their game in the final stretch will remain standing and advance to the next round.
With the Ateneo Lady Eagles and De La Salle University Lady Spikers already locked in for the early semis seats, only two spots remain up for grabs.
Rappler takes a look at the 4 remaining teams looking to punch in a Final Four appearance for Season 79:
Remaining games: Far Eastern University, University of Santo Tomas
Last Final Four appearance: Season 77
If there was one thing a Lady Bulldog fan can proudly tell you today, it’s that their team edged out league-leading Ateneo twice this season. NU ended up sweeping the Lady Eagles in the elimination rounds, and they are the only team that has accomplished the feat so far.
Based on the statistics released by ABS-CBN Sports as of March 26, the Lady Bulldogs sit at the bottom of the league in receiving (17.15 efficiency) and digging (11.83 average per set), but are one of the best blocking teams thus far at the second spot with an average of 2.04 blocks per set.
In their previous game against Ateneo, head coach Roger Gorayeb sidelined liberos Gayle Valdez and Joni Chavez for most of the match, and planned to master the art of skipper Jaja Santiago attacking from the back row. It would be interesting to see how Gorayeb plans out his rotation for the last few elimination games.
University of Santo Tomas
Remaining games: De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, National University
Last Final Four appearance: Season 74
After a sluggish start in the first round, the Golden Tigresses went on a roll as they won 4 straight games – the longest streak they’ve had since head coach Kungfu Reyes took over. The Espana-based squad has won 3 of its last 4 games in the second round, including their recent 4-set victory against the Far Eastern University which handed them a win-loss slate of 7-4 to solidify a playoff run this season.
The Tigresses lead the league in digging with a 16.56 average per set, edging out second-best FEU during their March 25 game. The super duo of Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure has also catapulted the team to the top of the spiking department, with UST sitting at the second spot right next to Ateneo.
The team will once again bank on the likes of Rondina and Laure as it holds one of the toughest schedules ahead. Apart from preparing for fellow playoff contenders UP and NU, UST has also yet to face the defending champions De La Salle University, which happens to be the best blocking team in Season 79.
University of the Philippines
Remaining games: University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University
Last Final Four appearance: Season 78
Prior to their 4-set victory against National University, the Lady Maroons dropped 5 of their last 7 games that left them wandering at the middle of the pack after a commanding 4-0 start. The Diliman-based squad has likewise been missing the services of senior libero Princess Gaiser, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the team’s first round meeting against the Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Maroons have been keeping pace with competition statistically-speaking, as they have been putting up numbers in digging (3rd), setting (5th) as well as in the spikes department (4th). They are also the league’s second best in receiving (32.20 eff.) and are 3rd in serving (2.71 ave per set).
Net defense has been the talking point for UP this season as it settles at the bottom half of the standings in blocks (6th: 1.57 ave per set). As the critical stage of the contest slowly unfolds, fans will be looking at sophomores Tots Carlos, one of the league’s top scorers this season, as well as reigning Rookie of the Year Isa Molde to anchor UP. Veterans Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon, in their final playing year, are expected to provide maturity and experience for the Lady Maroons as they once again aim to break into the semis.
Far Eastern University
Remaining games: University of the East, National University, University of the Philippines
Last Final Four appearance: Season 78
They may have recently succumbed to a 4-set loss against the University of Santo Tomas, but the fight is not over yet for Bernadeth Pons, one of the league’s best scorers, and the Far Eastern University. The Lady Tamaraws are the second best in digging (15.4 ave per set) and 3rd in setting (11.83 ave per set), and are at the middle of the ladder in blocking (3rd: 1.79 ave) as well as in reception (5th: 27.37 eff).
The Morayta-based squad will have to rely on the leadership of the Pons, Toni Rose Basas and Remy Palma trio as they gun for their third straight Final Four appearance in UAAP Women’s Volleyball.
The Lady Tams will square off next with the University of the East Lady Warriors, who are already out of contention, before heading to all-important battles against the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Maroons. －Rappler.com
Which teams do you think will grab the last two spots in the Final Four? Leave us a comment below!