The UAAP Season 80 final four clash begins tomorrow.
Second seed FEU Lady Tamaraws (10-4) will take on the third seed Ateneo Lady Eagles (9-5) for the first finals berth.
The Lady Tamaraws are armed with a twice-to-beat advantage. The last time they entered the championship round was way back in Season 71 where they bowed down to the Lady Spikers.
Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles are hoping to pull off another cinderella-like run similar to Season 76 as they gun for their seven straight finals appearance.
Before the exciting match between FEU and Ateneo, let’s take a look back at their first two encounters this season.
Match date: February 4, 2018
Scores: 19-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-20, 15-9
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) February 4, 2018
In their first round meeting, it was the FEU Lady Tamaraws who emerged victorious, a first since Season 75.
The match went down the wire.
Ateneo was already at the advantage with 2-1 sets lead but FEU pounced on Ateneo’s error-filled fourth set as they forced a deciding final set.
Ateneo got on a scoring rampage early in the final frame as they take a 6-1 lead. But the Lady Tams were not discouraged as they recovered just in time, anchored by Toni Basas’ exquisite serving game.
The Lady Eagles were again plagued by reception errors as graduating spiker Bernadeth Pons took charge and towed her team to their first victory of the season.
Ateneo led both in attacks (42-34) and blocks (11-8) but FEU masterfully dominated the serving department, dropping a total of 20 services aces – six from Basas – compared to the eight of the Lady Eagles.
Pons and Basas both registered 14 points in the win, with the former lacing her production with 16 excellent receptions and 13 excellent digs.
Warrior-turned-Tamaraw Celine Domingo on her first action donning the FEU jersey, chipped in 10 points – five off of service aces.
On the Lady Eagles side, Jhoanna Maraguinot topscored her team with 21 points, while Kat Tolentino added 14 points.
Match date: March 7, 2018
Scores: 25-19, 25-21, 25-17
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 7, 2018
The Lady Eagles avenged their opening day loss against the Lady Tamaraws with a sweep.
Unlike their first round encounter, the Katipunan-based crew showed much improvement in their reception.
Ateneo got into the rhythm from the onset of the game with Maraguinot and Tolentino taking turns in the offense as they snapped FEU’s four-game winning streak.
The game also served as Ponggay Gaston’s debut in the libero position, after losing Dani Ravena and Sydney Eleazar to injuries.
The Lady Tams failed to find their groove all throughout the game with their main gunner Pons limited to only five points.
Ateneo led in all skill department, attacks (38-27), blocks (6-4) and aces (5-3).
The duo of Maraguinot and Tolentino finished with combined 26 points in the win. Meanwhile, Basas was the lone Lady Tamaraw in double-digits with 10 points.
FINAL FOUR PREVIEW
This season, the Lady Tamaraws and the Lady Eagles have been at odds with each other, scoring one win each.
But let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding each team coming to their semifinal clash this Saturday.
The Lady Tamaraws finished their second round campaign with four consecutive victories.
Powered by a twice-to-beat incentive, the confidence and the morale of the Tams must be at an all-time high coming into the game.
They showed that they can outduel perennial top teams in the league this season.
The Lady Tams have been magnificent in their floor defense and in the service department.
They are second in both receiving and digging. They are also the second best serving team, if they can attack from the service line early on, just like what they did on their first round win over the Lady Eagles this season, the Lady Tams will be very hard to beat.
Their setter Kyle Negrito could play as the x-factor for the Lady Tams. She is the most experienced playmaker in the final four this season and she should play like it.
Her decision-making will be very crucial for the team. She has many scoring options from Pons to Basas to Domingo. It is up to her on how she capitalizes on her hitters.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 18, 2018
Negrito is also proven to be deadly from the service line, she is fifth in aces this year. If she can string up points on her own then that would be a big help to the team.
Winning the game would be very beneficial for the Lady Tams, not only they get into the finals, but they also avoid from succumbing to the pressure of a do-or-die match.
As for the Lady Eagles, they are coming off a two-game slump. Those losses can be very well work as an advantage for them. They are the hungrier team going into the match.
The first time Ateneo got into a two-game skid this season, they went on to win their next four games and that’s just enough wins for the Lady Eagles to win the championship.
They must play like no tomorrow against FEU if they want to barge into the championship round again this season.
The team has been struggling in their floor defense since the beginning of the season. They are sixth and seventh in receiving and digging, respectively.
Their liberos Ria Lo, Dani Ravena and Ponggay Gaston – who was converted midway the season – can be the x-factor for the Lady Eagles.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) February 21, 2018
The Lady Eagles have the enough arsenal in Maraguinot, Tolentino, De Leon and Madayag. They are the best spiking team in the season despite their reception problems.
What more if their liberos step up big time, if they can make it much easier for their setter Deanna Wong to set up plays not only in the wings but also in the middle, then they will have a good chance to win over the Lady Tams.
If there’s also a team who showed unbinding resiliency this season, then it’s the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
Will the FEU Lady Tamaraws be charged enough to win it or will the Ateneo Lady Eagles live to fight another match?