May 26, 2017, 1:24 pm
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La Salle belles eye finals against UST

DEFENDING champion La Salle seeks the first finals berth tomorrow when it collides with dangerous University of Santo Tomas in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Spikers, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, their prize after finishing second with an 11-3 card in the eliminations, clash with the Lady Tigresses at 4 p.m.

La Salle is out to make up for its 25-12, 20-25, 21-25, 19-25 loss to archrival Ateneo last April 8.

Coach Ramil De Jesus admitted his charges’ defeat at the hands of the Lady Eagles played heavily on their morale. But he was quick to remind his players that their focus now should be on the Tigresses.

“The important game is the semis,” De Jesus said. “That’s where the real fight starts, not the end of the eliminations.”

Last season’s Finals MVP Kim Dy, fellow tower Majoy Baron, ace setter Kim Fajardo, Ernestine Tiamzon, Aduke Ogunsanya, and Desiree Cheng will lead the Lady Spikers’ charge.

Clashing in the other semis pairing are top seed Ateneo, also armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, and fourth-ranked Far Eastern University on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

A rubber-match, if needed, is set Wednesday next week at the MOA Arena.

Back in the Final Four after five years, UST coach Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes is hoping his charges won’t be overwhelmed.

“First time nila (UST players) sa Final Four so malaking occasion, baka ma-overwhelm sa crowd so nagko-concentrate talaga kami sa laro and ‘yun ang mindset namin,” Reyes told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.

“Okay naman ang preparation namin for La Salle, may mga bago din kaming ginagawa para matapatan namin ang lakas ng La Salle,” Reyes added.

The Tigresses emerged as the No. 3 seed in the semis after finishing the eliminations with a 9-5 card.

UST is on a high, having scored a dramatic come-from-behind 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-12 decision over National University last April 8.

La Salle, however, beat UST twice in the eliminations, scoring a 25-23, 16-25, 25-14, 25-22 victory last Feb. 11 and repeating the trick 25-23, 25-22, 25-21 last March 29.

Reyes, 37, said UST’s return to the Final Four is already an achievement but is determined to lead the squad back to the Promised Land. The Tigresses last ruled the tourney in 2010.

High-flying skipper Cherry Rondina, EJ Laure, Pam Lastimosa, Ria Meneses, Alexine Cabanos, and Tine Francisco will lead the Tigresses.

“In good spirits sila, mas determined, focused, ayaw na nilang natatalo ng ganon-ganon lang,” Reyes said.
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