NOW, it has come down to this—a Game Three that will be immortalized in University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) history as an epic no-tomorrow showdown between archrivals Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle for the Season 78 crown.
And mind you, the Smart Araneta Coliseum will be bursting to the rafters once the first serve is made at exactly 3:30 p.m.
Nothing less than a crowd of 25,000 is expected at the Big Dome, where Alyssa Valdez and the Lady Eagles will try to make it three championships in a row—and as many over Ara Galang and the Lady Spikers.
When everyone thought De La Salle had it in the bag—the Lady Spikers jumped to a 2-0 set lead in Game Two on Wednesday at the MOA Arena—the Lady Eagles got their second wind—and what a howler it was—and caught De La Salle flat-footed for a five-set 18-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11 victory that forced the series practically back to square one.
It’s all for the marbles and neither team would enter the game ill-prepared.
“It’s the last game of the finals. Mind over matter, and we really need to fight,” said three-time Most Valuable Player Valdez, who is playing the last of her five straight seasons in the UAAP—remarkably, she figured in five straight championships in her collegiate career.
“I know my teammates will be there and I could not ask for more,” said Valdez, also a four-time Best Scorer and three-time Best Setter. “God gave us another chance to defend the crown. We’ll just give our best and we’ll just give it all not only our 100 percent but definitely 101 percent.”
De La Salle, on the other hand, remained in high spirits despite the Game Two meltdown.
“You have to pick up yourself up from the loss and just go to Game Three with a perspective that there’s no other way but do it,” De La Salle Athletic Director Nongnong Calanog said. “Definitely, they’ll go back to the drawing board see where the adjustments have to be made and hopefully, we finish the job that we didn’t finish in Game Two.”
After an injury scare late in the third set in Game Two on the same knee where she had an ACL tear last year, Galang will suit up for the last time seeking to complete an unfinished business after missing last season’s Finals.
“It’s just a minor contusion. Nabugbog lang ng kaunti ‘yung left knee niya pero ilalaro ni Ara ‘yan,” Calanog said.
Galang will be joined by cograduating spikers Mika Reyes and Cyd Demecillo, as well as newly crowned Best Setter Kim Fajardo, Best Blocker Majoy Baron, Best Digger and Best Receiver Dawn Macandili and rising spiker Kim Kianna Dy to complete their sweet revenge against Ateneo after two years of title drought.
La Salle is gunning for its ninth women’s volleyball title and the team has been in the Finals for eight straight years. No wonder Valdez is wary of the experience of the Lady Spikers Head Coach Ramil de Jesus.
“La Salle will be La Salle. La Salle has a good system and they are the veterans kahit sabihin mong may mga bata, veterans pa rin sila kasi ‘yung experience nila as a team sobrang dami na,” Valdez said.
It will also be the last UAAP match for Amy Ahomiro, and Mae Tajima for Ateneo. For La Salle, Galang, Reyes, Demecillo, Mika Esperanza and Carol Cerveza will also bid farewell after Game Three.