Valdez, Ateneo open three-peat bid versus confident NU
Mark Escarlote on Jan 31, 2016 07:28 AM
All eyes are set on the match up between stars Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo de Manila and Jaja Santiago of National University.
Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University begins its three-peat bid as the Lady Eagles and the National University Lady Bulldogs square off in an early collision of powerhouse teams in the 78th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan on Sunday.
Unbeaten since its breakthrough title back in Season 76 – a total of 18-game winning streak capped by completing a clean sweep of last year’s competition – behind two-time Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo opens its campaign at 4:00 p.m. against the confident Lady Bulldogs led by national team players 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo.
Valdez, arguably the most popular volleyball player to date, is on her final tour of duty for the Loyola-based squad as well as last year’s Finals MVP Amy Ahomiro.
Jho Maraguinot, Bea De Leon and setter Jia Morado are back to give Ateneo a grand slam and a special parting gift for Valdez and Ahomiro.
“That’s our dream also (to win a three-peat). But really our goal is really to have OK na game naman and be our best in every single game na lalabanan namin,” said Valdez, who during the offseason played for the national team in the Asian U-23 and Singapore Southeast Asian Games and led PLDT to two titles in the V-League. “’Yun lang, kailangan munang mag-start sa unang game siguro. Isa-isa muna para makita namin kung aabot ba kami sa dulo.”
But the Lady Eagles are in for a rough ride without their key defensive players libero Denden Lazaro and Ella De Jesus, who both played their final eligibility year last season.
An opening NU would like to capitalize in.
“Maganda kung mananalo kami, aba at least ang kompiyansa mo nandoon bale lahat matatakot na sa’yo,” said Lady Bulldogs head coach Roger Gorayeb.
Gorayeb is looking at taking advantage of Santiago’s height to clog the net to stop Valdez.
“Si Alyssa lang naman ang bumubuhay sa kanila doon ng todo-todo,” he said.
The Lady Bulldogs will have an extra firepower with the return of Aiko Urdas after suffering from a knee injury. Jorelle Singh and libero Bia General also improved a lot during the offseason.
NU is hoping to carry the momentum of their morale-boosting V-League Collegiate Conference conquest at the expense of Ateneo to snare the opening day victory.
The game wil air live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action Channel 23 and ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD Channel 166 and via livestream at sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap.
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