By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Ateneo Lady Eagles and Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws make one last go at the remaining finals spot in Season 81 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines when they collide in their semifinal rubber match today at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
Set for 3:30 p.m., the do-or-die match was forced after FEU cast aside its twice-to-win disadvantage with a five-sets victory over Ateneo in the opener of the Final Four on May 4 and put itself in a position to face the Lady Eagles on equal footing for a ticket to the championship round.
The Lady Tamaraws got valuable contributions from different sources to outlast Ateneo, 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25 and 15-8.
FEU came out flat to begin the contest but dug deep in each of the next two sets to seize control of the match.
In the fourth frame, the Lady Tamaraws fell back and saw their opponents level the count.
But in the deciding set they would recalibrate, bucking a slow start to speed past the Lady Eagles the rest of the way and never looked back on their way to the victory.
The FEU veterans stepped up in their season-extending victory with graduating player Heather Guino-o leading the charge with 17 points and Nette Villareal adding 10.
Jerrili Malabanan had eight points while rookie France Ronquillo held her own with seven markers.
For Ateneo, it was leading scorer Kat Tolentino who showed the way with 21 markers with Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag backstopping her with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
While they admitted to have allowed a good opportunity to advance to the finals slip from their hands last time around, Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro said they remain bullish of their chances in the rubber match.
He expressed confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back after a tough loss but nonetheless underscored the need for them to go for the win as FEU is expected to make a serious run at it as well.
The winner of the Ateneo-FEU semifinals will move on to the championship round against the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, who dethroned the defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers in their Final Four bracket on Sunday in five sets. UST carried a twice-to-beat advantage but saw no need to use it.
On the part of FEU, given the opportunity it has, it is bent on making full use of it.
“We are thankful to be put in such a position to extend our season. We will continue to fight to achieve our goal,” said Lady Tamaraws coach George Pascua.
“We still need to improve on things. Wednesday will be tougher game with a lot of pressure,” he added.