Tigresses face defending champions Lady Bulldogs, with No. 2 spot at stake – rezal404

The stars will all come out to play (from left): Eya Laure, Milena Alessandrini and Cassie Carballo will form UST's core while Bella Belen, Jen Nierva and Alyssa Solomon will fuel NU's charge.  —UAAP MEDIA

The stars will all come out to play (from left): Eya Laure, Milena Alessandrini and Cassie Carballo will form UST’s core while Bella Belen, Jen Nierva and Alyssa Solomon will fuel NU’s charge.—UAAP MEDIA

Eya Laure and Bella Belen, two of the biggest draws in Season 85 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament, will go head-to-head once again with the stakes at their highest as far as available rankings in the Final Four go.

Laure and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigresses and the pack of defending champion National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs that Belen leads battle it out at 11 am on Wednesday for what would be the No. 2 seed and the last available twice-to-beat privilege in the semifinals.

And both stars have planned—and surely spent—the days since the weekend studying the team on the opposite end of the floor knowing the enormousity of the match at FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

“They’re still the defending champions, and that’s still the mentality that they have,” Laure said in Filipino after the Tigresses completed the Final Four cast with a win over Far Eastern University last Sunday as she looked ahead to this crucial tiff. “We know that they don’t want to lose and that they will put their best foot forward [for this match].

“We will be ready for them,” the league’s leading scorer said. “That’s what we want to do.”

With both squads locked in a second place tie at 9-3, the winner gets the inside track on No. 2 as they close out their respective elimination round schedules against ousted sides.

“We were overeager [in the first round],” Belen said in Filipino when she talked of the 25-23, 27-25, 17-25, 22-25, 15-11 loss to the Tigresses last March 4 that snapped NU’s 20-game winning streak. “We need to be composed and we need to go back to the drawing board.

“We will come up with a game plan based on how we see them in their last game.”

As things stand, idle La Salle will be No. 1 with a 12-1 record, while Adamson is at No. 4 and would likely need to beat the Lady Spikers two straight times if the UST-NU loser wins its final game.

Kungfu Reyes, the Santo Tomas coach, has worked on making sure that his Tigresses remain hungry.

“Our aim is a top two spot,” Reyes said. “We’re in the Final Four, but we are aiming higher. We will play our game and not play on the occasion, otherwise, we might be overwhelmed by the situation.”

Bigger scenario

The bigger scenario, assuming that National dispatches of Ateneo and Santo Tomas takes care of winningless University of the Philippines to close out classification, is that the loser of this match will again tangle with the winner in the semifinals—and having the huge task of winning two straight games to advance.

“We need to be composed and relaxed. These two remaining games are very important,” said Belen.

Laure will be the biggest defensive problem for the Lady Bulldogs, as the heavy-handed Santo Tomas spiker has shown basically all season long that she can be unstoppable when she is in her elements.

She will be coming off a 28-point performance against the Lady Tamaraws in a four-set win, although Santo Tomas has a solid nucleus that includes the towering Milena Alessandrini and Cassie Carballo.

Alyssa Solomon will be there as Belen’s chief backup, with team captain Princess Robles and libero Jen Nierva also expected to play a critical part. INQ

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