By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE marquee volleyball tournament of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines begins this weekend with all eight competing teams set to see action in the opening two days.
The University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons open the brand-new season in women’s play, taking on the University of the East Lady Warriors in the opener at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City. Playing after are the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws and National University Lady Bulldogs at 4 p.m.
On the second day on Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, the Adamson Lady Falcons and University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses open festivities at 2 p.m. while in the main game at 4 p.m. archrivals De La Salle Lady Spikers and Ateneo Lady Eagles collide.
UP, which had a solid campaign in the lead-up to UAAP Season 81 by winning titles in the collegiate tournaments of the Premier Volleyball League and Philippine Superliga, tries to get back in the Final Four after missing out on the semifinals in each of the two previous UAAP seasons.
Bannering the Lady Maroons are veterans Isa Molde, Tots Carlos, Ayel Estranero, Justin Dorog and Marian Buitre along with the likes of Marist Layug, Aiesha Gannaban, Jessma Ramos and Roselyn Rosier. Coaching the team for the second year is Kenyan Godfrey Okumu.
“We played well in the offseason but the real test for us is in the UAAP,” said Mr. Okumu in the lead-up to the about-to-start season.
UE, meanwhile, looks to finally charge its way up after bottom-scraping in the last decade.
The Lady Warriors are now coached by Rey Karl Dimaculangan and feature holdovers Judith Abil, Me-Anne Mendrez, Kath Arado, Roselle Baliton, Laizah Bendong and Seth Rodriguez.
“Will take it one game at a time and win as many games as we can,” said Mr. Dimaculangan of the mindset they have for the new UAAP season.
LA SALLE VS ATENEO
Meanwhile, La Salle goes for a fourth straight UAAP women’s volleyball title this year, beginning its campaign against Ateneo.
The Lady Spikers saw a number of key departures after last season but are looking to continue flourishing under the steady guidance of long-time coach Ramil De Jesus.
Expected to lead La Salle are Aduke Ogunsanya, Des Cheng, Tin Tiamzon and Michelle Cobb along newcomers Jolina dela Cruz and Des Clemente.
On the other hand, Ateneo begins the post-Tai Bundit era with coach Oliver Almadro, formerly of the men’s team.
Members of the Season 81 Lady Eagles include graduating players Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag and Kim Gequillana, and other veterans like Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston and Deanna Wong.
The UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament will be aired live over S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD with streaming available at sports.abs-cbn.com and iWant.