You lose, you die

Sisi Rondina
UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas star Sisi Rondina yells after scoring a point against Ateneo in Game 2 of the UAAP women's volleyball championship series Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Lady Eagles were able to force a do-or-die with a 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15 win. (Dennis Abrina/PJ)

WITH one final chance to end her checkered collegiate career as a champion, newly-minted MVP Sisi Rondina will leave everything on the floor as she tries to bring the UAAP women's volleyball trophy back to University of Santo Tomas.

“Hindi ko na papalagpasin. Sabi nga, whatever it takes nga di ba? Doon at doon na lang talaga kaya, so push na talaga hanggang matapos yung liga na to," said Rondina.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, hindi tayo susuko. Di pa natin nakukuha yung pangarap natin,”

For coach Oliver Almadro, it's all about Ateneo not veering away in the system that has worked for them all-season long.

"This game, it was given to us by the Lord," said Almadro after the series-tying win last Wednesday that set up the do-or-die match. "So we have to keep the momentum, and keep the faith."

The Tigresses and the Lady Eagles cross paths in the Finals decider that is expected to go down the wire at 3:30 p.m. today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

UST pulled off a 25-17, 25-16, 25-20 victory in the series opener before Ateneo finally lived up as the top-ranked team this seaon with a 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15 win to level.

Rookie of the Year winner Eya Laure, who hurt her left ankle after a bad landing at the start of the third set in Game 2, is expected to suit up for the Tigresses.  Whether Laure will be in full strength has remains to be seen.

Rondina needs to take over when the chips are down for UST, and his teammates support will be vital to claim its 15th title - and the first since the 2009-10 season.

For the Tigresses, the Lady Eagles have just tied the series and it takes two wins to hoist the crown.

“Sabi nga ni coach (Kungfu Reyes) kanina na ito ‘yung taste, ito yung experience kapag natatalo, lalo na sa important game. Motivation, we have Game 3 pa. Yung mga positive words ni coach nandoon palagi,” said Rondina.

UST had an error-filled first set in Game 2 that allowed Ateneo to seize the upperhand.  Although the Tigresses were able to level in the second frame, the Lady Eagles were simply in the zone in the third and fourth to prevail.

Aside from its solid blocking which is the team's bread and butter all-tournament long, Ateneo had improved its service in the series-tying win with 11 aces, with Jules Samonte and Maddie Madayag combining for six.

Then there's Lady Eagles libero Dani Ravena, who played the game of her life with 22 digs and 12 receptions.

A win will be Ateneo's third championship overall, and the first since the 16-0 campaign in 2014-15 season behind Alyssa Valdez.  

"Wala namang makakatalo sa amin if we play happy and we follow coach's instructions," said Madayag, one of the league's best blockers.