DOC VOLLEYBALL: A Tale of Two Rivalries
AJ Pareja on Apr 27, 2018 11:29 AM
Can the FEU Lady Tamaraws end their 10 year title drought?After what has been the most unpredictable yet inarguably the most interesting season so far, the UAAP volleyball tournament boils down to the two best teams for both men’s and women’s divisions. With no teams from the same schools in both divisions as what the Ateneo de Manila University has done in recent years, the men’s finals match will continue the new age rivalry between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the NU Bulldogs while the women's division will renew the age old rivalry between UAAP powerhouses De La Salle Lady Spikers and FEU Lady Tamaraws.
Ateneo Blue Eagles vs National University Bulldogs
Perhaps unbeknownst to the current following of the UAAP Men’s Volleyball, both the Blue Eagles and the Bulldogs were the perennial cellar dwellers of the league almost a decade ago. The current rivalry of these two new powerhouses in the men’s division is a testament to how even the least winning team can achieve greatness given adequate support and a solid program.
The NU Bulldogs proved to be the most dominant team this season barging their way into the finals slot albeit a first round loss to the Blue Eagles and a minor hiccup against the Adamson Soaring Falcons showed their vulnerability.
Boasting of height, power, and athleticism, the Bryan Bagunas-led pack proved that their offensive might is enough to dominate the league.
On the other hand, the chance for the Blue Eagles to defend their title was slightly doubted due to a disheartening loss to the Bulldogs towards the end of eliminations. The loss pitted the Blue Eagles against their season-round tormentors, the FEU Tamaraws, who had a twice to beat advantage. A masterstroke risk of Coach Oliver Almadro in shifting his ace, Marck Espejo, into the opposite position maximized his scoring output and proved too much to handle for the Tamaraws in succession.
For this finals match-up, the Bulldogs will continue to showcase pure offensive force as well as towering net defense while the Blue Eagles will continue to utilize superb net play grounded on reliable floor defense.
The Bulldogs will be expected to stick to their assets of height and athleticism to dictate the rhythm of the game with sheer offense. With perhaps the tallest line-up in the league, the NU spikers are expected to convert consistently given a good pass and set.
Likewise, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bagunas will be relegated also into the opposite position to challenge the shorter block of Karl Baysa and Ron Medalla in order to match Espejo’s output. Coach Dante Alinsunurin can afford such a gamble as their current opposite, James Natividad, is more than capable of handling passing responsibilities for the team.
On the other hand, Espejo will still be expected to lead the Blue Eagles in the scoring department as he has proven to be a perfect fit for the most offensive position which is the opposite. With their most recent win against the FEU Tamaraws in which Espejo had enough support from the other positions especially the middles, the Blue Eagles will have a better chance of circumventing the Bulldogs’ wall.
In addition, Ateneo would still highly benefit from aggressive serving to ensure that both Francis Saura and Kim Malabunga can be pinned from the middle so they can focus more on stopping Bagunas.
De La Salle Lady Spikers vs FEU Lady Tamaraws
Though it is a continuation of a new age rivalry for the men's series, the finals match up in the women's division is a clash of titans almost a decade in the making.
Over the past seasons, the Lady Spikers have faced different rivals from the Lady Tamaraws, Golden Tigresses, and the Lady Eagles. With the Lady Tamaraws’ resurgence as a volleyball powerhouse, their performance this year contributed to the exciting unpredictability of this season as well as garnering them their much deserved finals spot.
The last finals encounter of DLSU and FEU starred two power-packed rosters with legends such as Illa Santos, Jacq Alarca, Steph Mercado and Cha Cruz for the Lady Spikers while the likes of Rachel Ann Daquis, Maica Morada, Shaira Gonzales and Cherry Vivas spearheaded the Lady Tamaraws.
Though the level of play has significantly increased with new innovations and techniques since a decade ago, the quality and caliber of both old and new rosters are indisputable.
The old and current line-up of the Lady Spikers actually mirrors each other with Des Cheng and Tin Tiamzon reminiscent of the high flying tandem of Santos and Mercado in the left wing while Kim Dy is a good reminder of how consistent Cruz delivers from the right. Perhaps the most notable similarity is that of both Jacq Alarca and Majoy Baron, whose presence in the net ensures La Salle’s fire power and quintessential blocking as well as their tenacity in serving up aces.
On the other hand, the current Lady Tamaraws may not be as much of a mirror image of their legendary predecessors, but what is glaringly visible is the offensive and defensive variety of both eras.
While current Queen Tamaraw Bernadette Pons may not have the power and height of Daquis, she makes up for versatility and consistency. Middle Celine Domingo may not have the aggressiveness of Morada but her towering presence in the net sparks intimidation to opposing spikers. Chin Basas may not have the firepower of Vivas but her reliability in offense as well as in the service line makes Basas a worthy successor.
This season's finals series will be interesting as both teams have proven that mastery of the basic skills of serving and passing are the most crucial factors in winning. The Lady Spikers are expected to continue serving tough jump floaters to disrupt the Lady Tamaraws from executing their combination plays.
Likewise, tough serving by La Salle is also their crucial step to establish their well known wall by focusing on key players once the opponent’s attack pattern has been deduced.
On the other hand, the Lady Tamaraws will also serve it up to the Lady Spikers in key locations such as zone 5 to inhibit DLSU’s middles from approaching for a quick.
In addition, the wide variety of hitters be it in the front and back row guarantees setter Kyle Negrito an option on the instance that their setup is disrupted by the La Salle serve.