The Ateneo Lady Eagles and UST Lady Tigresses are the last two standing teams this season

By Nicole Ganglani | Lead photo by Tristan Tamayo

Two months ago, we wrote about how the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Green Archers were in jeopardy of losing their tenth finals appearance streak, the University of Sto.Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses were playing their best volleyball performance yet, and how Bea de Leon’s leadership is carrying the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Lady Eagles far in the tournament.

Fast forward to today and all these things are as accurate as ever except the DLSU Lady Archers are officially out of the tournament while UST is in the finals (for the first time since 2011) and team captain de Leon managed to carry her team back to the finals once again. It’s been a crazy and unpredictable season but expect the University of Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Women’s Volleyball Finals to get even more intense with the best-of-three battle between Katipunan and España happening this Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

UST Tigresses: The Team With All Heart

Throughout the season, UST played with a lot of heart. They started the tournament by winning six of their first nine games and ended it on a more impressive note by proving they could dethrone the Lady Archers. It takes more than a well-planned strategy to defeat 11-time UAAP champion and volleyball master coach Ramil De Jesus and his Lady Spikers, but the Lady Tigresses stunned everyone after such a stellar performance that broke their eight-year finals drought.

UST has found a hero in their rookie Eya Laure who’s averaging an impressive 35.90 percent in spikes and has a total of 230 points in the season. Team captain and veteran Sisi Rondina, who has yet to experience being in the Finals wants this championship more than ever. It was evident in Rondina’s performance that she wants to take the championship back to España once again, except the only thing that’s standing in her way is the best team in the tournament this season: the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

The Lady Eagles will give UST one hell of a fight. They faced off twice in the elimination round and in those two games, Ateneo came out victorious. UST needs to step up their defense especially on the frontcourt where the Lady Eagles score best on all sides. The pressure is on Rondina to give her best performance yet and see her team through. After all, the advantage UST has is that they have two of the best scorers in the league; they also have a lot of heart—which is maybe the most powerful weapon they’re going to need in the finals.

Ateneo Lady Eagles: The Team With All Grit

The Ateneo Lady Eagles’ is not Bea de Leon’s team. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s just that De Leon’s leadership has been such a crucial factor that has carried Ateneo towards the top of the standings with a 12-2 record. It may also be why the team is so dominant. It took a lot for Ateneo to eliminate the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in two games despite having the twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals. But as long as Ateneo has their offensive strategy intact, their grit is what’s going to win them the championship.

As mentioned, the Lady Eagles do their scoring best from all sides of the frontcourt. Katrina Tolentino and Ponggay Gaston, for instance, have been huge for Ateneo this season since they both do their best scoring from the side. Besides de Leon, graduating student Maddie Madayag is also on a mission to end her final year in Ateneo with a championship. De Leon and Madayag need to maximize their middle scoring if they want to close out UST in the Finals.

This year’s UAAP women’s Volleyball Finals is all about heart versus grit: A UST team that’s desperate to win a championship after eight years versus an Ateneo team that wants to prove they still have what it takes to be champions. Ultimately, it’s possible that what’s going to determine the outcome of this series is not who the stronger team is but which team wants the crown more than the other.