Lady Eagles are underdogs against NU

AFTER  a humbling 0-3 straight-set demolition at the hands of the National University Lady Bulldogs last week the Ateneo De Manila Lady Eagles will be the clear underdogs when they play the deciding game of the Shakey’s V-Season 12 League Collegiate Conference title showdown at The Arena in San Juan 12:45 p.m. today, Sunday.

Playing with a complete lineup after the return of Dindin Santiago-Manabat NU trounced Ateneo 25-22, 25-17, 25-17 in Game Two. Jaja Santiago teamed up with her elder sister and Myla Pablo to form a virtual wall at the net for NU as they limited Ateneo’s high-scoring Alyssa Valdez to a career-low nine points.

Valdez was completely stymied at the net by the NU defense. She scored just eight attack points out of 26 tries. Worse, none of her teammates picked up the scoring slack. Ateneo spikers Jhoanna Maraguinot, Amy Ahomiro, Kim Gequillana and Bea De Leon contributed just six points apiece.

NU’s towering Jaja Santiago (3), peers over the net while about to smash a quick spike before Ateneo defenders Kim Gequillana (18) and Bea De Leon (14) could elevate to block her during Game Two of their Shakey’s V-Season 12 League Collegiate Conference title showdown at The Arena in San Juan.

NU’s Santiago stood out with 13 hits – mostly from quick sets – while Pablo unloaded 12 big points.

Santiago-Manabat not only propped up the NU defense she also matched Pablo’s output as she provided additional firepower and the endgame poise which led to their dominant victory.

NU coach Roger Gorayeb downplayed the role of his triple-tower combination of Santiago-Manabat, Santiago and Pablo and instead pointed to good reception and proper execution as the reason for their dominant performance.

 “The key to our game is reception. Unless we receive well, we couldn’t cash in on our height advantage. Everything starts with good reception,” said Gorayeb.

“It’s not just Dindin. We received better than the last time. It also helped that we had fewer service errors. I counted it. We probably committed just three or four in this game.”

NU open spiker Myla Pablo (17) is in mid-swing while about to smash the volleyball against a double-block by Ateneo defenders during Game Two of their Shakey’s V-Season 12 League Collegiate Conference title showdown at The Arena in San Juan. Beverly Laurete-Hawksworth

NU also had a big edge at the play-making spot with veteran setter Rubie de Leon outplaying her young counterpart Gizelle Tan of Ateneo. De Leon unloaded 28 excellent sets, 11 more than Tan. De Leon even added five hits to complete her mastery over her young Ateneo counterpart.

“Rubie is helping the team a lot because she sets up our attack well. Her experience is really helping my younger players. She provides maturity to the team,” said Gorayeb.

There is plenty of history in this championship series. NU wants a repeat of its Season 10 victory when it beat Ateneo, 3-1, in a sudden death match after also dropping the first game.

On the other hand, the Lady Eagles want a third collegiate crown in the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera. Ateneo swept Adamson in Season 8 and edged UST in a similar rubber match in Season 9.

The NU mentor said he wants a good game even from rival Ateneo to please the fans with a better match than the two earlier games.

“I really want Ateneo to play its best game. We played bad in Game One and they struggled in Game Two. Wouldn’t it be nice for the league and the fans if we both come out in our best form Game Three?” said Gorayeb.

Ateneo assistant coach Parley Tupaz, who handled the team in the absence of head coach Tai Bundit who returned to Thailand to fulfill an important commitment, said he hopes star player Valdez regains her confidence and bearing in time to lead her team to victory in the winner-take-all match. More importantly, the rest of the Ateneo players will need to step up.

“We’re pinning our hopes not just on Alyssa but on the entire team. There’ll be no changes as far as our game plan is concerned. We’ll just apply what we’ve been doing under coach Tai (Bundit),” said Tupaz.


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