Rivalry continues: Ateneo, La Salle vie for UAAP women's volleyball crown

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — For the fifth straight year, the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the De La Salle Lady Spikers will battle in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women's volleyball finals.

In the previous four seasons, the two squads each won the title twice — La Salle in Season 74 and 75, and Ateneo in Season 76 and 77.

What will be the key factors for the Lady Eagles and Lady Spikers in this best-of-three affair?

Ateneo: Valdez, Maraguinot and first ball reception

Volleyball analyst Miakka Lim told CNN Philippines the performance of reigning MVP Alyssa Valdez will be crucial for the Lady Eagles in the finals, especially because she's playing in her final year.

"I think everyone will expect Alyssa Valdez to play like it's her last, because this is her last season," said Lim. "They're only down to 2 to 3 games and she would really want her stint with Ateneo to end with a huge win."

Lim believes Valdez will be "very well-prepared" and that "she's going to go all out" in the championship round.

009_DLSU_VS_ADMU_CNNPH.png Aside from Valdez, another player who can provide a spark for the Lady Eagles, according to Lim, is Jhoana Maraguinot.

"She is very downplayed but actually the next potential player for Ateneo is Jhoana Maraguinot," she said.

 

"She has the power attacks that can be another option for Ateneo especially coming into these finals."

Lim, however, stressed that the Lady Eagles need to make proper adjustments on the defensive end.

"It's no secret that Ateneo has been struggling with their first ball reception," the analyst said. "[La Salle] will definitely look into targeting the people at the back."

An advantage that the defending champions have, she added, is "fresh legs." Ateneo eliminated the UP Lady Maroons early and have been resting for several days now.

"They have fresh legs, [and] they have new perspective of their opponents after watching them for two games now," Lim said. "I think they're very relaxed right now, no pressure whatsoever."

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La Salle: Dy, Baron and momentum

On the other side of the matchup are the Lady Spikers.

Lim said La Salle will prove to be a tough matchup for Ateneo because of their depth — any member of the squad can provide contributions.

"Every single game there's always somebody who steps up, that's how you know La Salle is not only strong on paper, but they can actually do it on [the] court," Lim said. "We've seen their lineup, they're really strong. On any given day in any given situation, somebody will really step up."

008_DLSU_VS_ADMU_CNNPH.png For Lim, though, two players that will likely be x-factors for La Salle are Kim Dy and Mary Joy Baron.

"We all are looking for the veterans Kim Fajardo and Ara Galang, but Kim Dy and Joy Baron were the ones who really stepped up," said Lim, referring to the win over FEU in the Final Four.

"Dy and Baron were the ones who were doing most of the work in terms of their attacks."

She added La Salle also needs to do well in terms of blocking and service, especially against a team like Ateneo.

Lim also said La Salle is on a high right now after the emphatic win against the Lady Tamaraws, and they need to carry that momentum over into the finals.

"La Salle will really have the momentum, but we cannot discount the fact that Ateneo has been resting and they would have fresher legs," she said. "It would be interesting to see how that all pans out in Game 1."

The rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle "never disappoints," she said, and fans can expect a great series from both squads.

The first match of the best-of-three series between the Lady Eagles and Lady Spikers is on Saturday (April 23) at 4 p.m. at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

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