Lady Eagles eye finals vs Lady Tams

Bea de Leon
ATENEO's Bea de Leon tries to score off Far Eastern University's Nette Villareal during their UAAP women's volleyball duel last Feb. 24 at the Filoil Flying V Centre. For the third straight season, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Tamaraws cross paths in the Final Four.

COACH Oliver Almadro has one thing in mind when Ateneo faces Far Eastern University for the third year in a row in the UAAP women's volleyball Final Four.

“Ang sa amin, yung mindset namin is to be back in the Finals," said Almadro after the Lady Eagles clinched the best elimination round record at 12-2.

For Ateneo, which missed the championship round last year after six consecutive appearances, the Final Four is a chance to prove itself to be the best.

"It's a test of character for the team. It's time to show our character and we have to work hard and play hard to be back in the Finals," said Almadro.

The Lady Eagles hope to cash in on the twice-to-beat incentive after being one of the top two teams in the elims against the No. 4 Lady Tamaraws at 4 p.m. today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

"Alam natin na magaling ang FEU so we have to prepare kung sino man ang nandoon," said Almadro.

Behind the trio of Maddie Madayag, Kat Tolentino and Bea de Leon, Ateneo owns the bragging rights as the league's top blocking team and has displayed tremendous improvement in receptions which was the team's weakest link in the previous campaigns.

The Lady Tamaraws have lost their two elimination round meetings with the Lady Eagles, but for coach George Pascua, the Final Four is a different matter.

“So siyempre knowing naman Ateneo, powerhouse din naman ang team na iyon. Siyempre di kami titigil hangga’t hindi namin naa-achieve ang goal namin,” said Pascua, who is seeking to steer FEU back to the Finals for the second straight season.

The Lady Eagles battled back from a 0-2 set deficit to fashion out a 14-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-18, 15-12 win over the Lady Tamaraws last Feb.  24.  Ateneo then reasserted its mastery of FEU, 25-21, 25-10, 25-18, last April 3, in a game where last year's best blocker Ced Domingo failed to foil a single opponent attack.

The twice-to-beat disadvantage won't hurt the Lady Tamaraws.

If FEU can display the same mentality it has in last Sunday's shock 25-22, 13-25, 15-25, 27-25, 15-8 win over defending champion La Salle, the 29-time champions can drag Ateneo to a deciding game on Wednesday.       

“Personally sa tingin ko wala. Laban kung laban na iyan eh. Sa semis.,wala na dapat excuses,” said Pascua.

Heather Guino-o, who scored 24 points against the Lady Spikers, will spearhead the Lady Tamaraws' offense along with skipper Jerrili Malabanan.

The other Final Four duel between twice-to-beat University of Santo Tomas and third-ranked La Salle is set at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the same Pasay venue.

In the men's division, second seed FEU shoots for the first championship berth against Ateneo at 2 p.m.