Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals Preview: Ateneo-La Salle

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A UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals Preview: Ateneo-La Salle
by rick olivares

For the fourth straight UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals, it’s Ateneo versus La Salle. And for the record, DLSU is still up in the finals series match up, 2-1. The Ateneo Lady Eagles are poised not only to square up matters but to take their second consecutive title.

As much as you’d want to see other teams compete for the title, right now, the Ateneo-La Salle matchup that is good for the sport as it brings a lot of interest and drama to the game. Imagine the rivalry has crossed into another arena – volleyball!

After two rounds, this is how the two teams stand in terms of the statistical categories:
Spiking: Ateneo #1; La Salle #2
Blocking: La Salle #1; Ateneo #6
Serving: La Salle #1; Ateneo #2
Digging: Ateneo #1; La Salle #2
Setting: Ateneo #1; La Salle #2
Receiving: Ateneo #1; La Salle #3

When the two schools face each other in basketball, it is oft said you can throw out the statistics because they don’t matter. Does the same apply in volleyball? With a major injury to a key player, it does factor in because you have to find out alternative sources for the missing stats.

Here’s how both teams look heading into Game One.

They are certainly a much better team than they were last year with the addition of Bea De Leon and Jhoanna Maraguinot. That means they have weapons from all sides of the court. This season, they faced adversity with five-setters versus UP, La Salle, and Adamson as well as coming back from a huge deficit to get past an upset-minded UE. They even played on back-to-back days – a first in league history – yet came away with wins.

Their biggest challenge now is the long-layoff. Coach Anusorn Bundit kept the team working hard playing matches against men’s and women’s teams (including club teams) and maintaining their practice sked. They didn’t slack off one bit. But of course, it remains to be seen if it affects them. But that shouldn’t be an excuse since they saw La Salle deal with it the past two finals. The plus side for the layoff is it allows those with niggling injuries to recuperate (although that is tough since Bundit continued with his hard practices).

Alyssa Valdez has averaged a whopping 27.5 points against La Salle in the eliminations. She has been the leader for this team for two years running. She works really hard and others have taken her cue. On the cusp of another title, she says she won’t let go.

Can the Lady Eagles defend the crown? Sure they can. If they remain sharp, they don’t treat the series as if it is over (what with the season-ending injury to Ara Galang), and they stay healthy.

La Salle.
What an opportunity for them! They have a chance to reverse last year’s inglorious defeat with Ateneo overhauling the Lady Spikers’ thrice-to-beat advantage with a comeback of their own.  However, they’ve been dealt a blow with the loss of Galang who has averaged 15.5 points in the two matches against Ateneo in the elimination round. That is huge because she isn’t simply any other player. She’s their leading scorer and when they need a point they go to her. They’ll need to find someone who can step up because in the two elims matches against Ateneo, Galang was the only one to score in double figures while Ateneo produced two to three double-digit scorers.

Nevertheless, this team still has plenty of weapons. In addition to Cyd Demecillo, Kim Fajardo, and Mika Reyes, Christine Soyud, Mary Ann Baron, and Carol Ann Cerveza have become huge parts in De Jesus’ rotation. The missing piece has been Desiree Cheng who was in and out of the rotation this year as her play was largely inconsistent. She’ll need to come up big to give her team a fighting chance.

I’d say the burden now falls to Fajardo who is one of the best setters in the land. She will need to get more creative and find her other teammates for scoring opportunities. The more she can get involved, the greater their confidence will grow.

The odds may be stacked against them but they have veterans from their title teams in Demecillo, Fajardo, and Reyes to lead them. They are superbly coached. They have pride and that makes them dangerous.

I don’t recall La Salle ever being an underdog. It would be interesting to see how they respond to adversity and the challenge.

Finals prediction: The pressure is squarely on Ateneo. This is theirs to lose. If Ateneo wins game one, they will end it in two. If La Salle can take the first game, they will gain a lot of confidence and put Ateneo on their heels. If they can take two early on, they could (emphasis on could) reverse the tide and claim the sweetest of titles given their situation.

1 comment:

  1. that we will see in the final game....for me i consider the odds are even....even with ara galang missing....both teams are the real beasts and the hottest championship chasers of the league....these finals games for me would have the same intensity and audience as in the brewing pacquiao-mayweather fight...praying that no injuries occur to both teams, sportsmanship and only fair and square competitions happen, and fans and supporters just enjoy the game and hold each others' tempers and only support their favored teams...God bless...!