There is no doubt that the Shakey’s V-league Season 10 is one of the most hyped league this summer and provingly so, this is one of the more exciting seasons of V-league. A lot of events happened that are so memorable. Aiza Maizo come back is such a huge story and she did not let down her fans even though she gain weight probably because of giving birth; Rachelle Ann Daquis is playing for Ateneo & Coach Gorayeb chose to fight alongside the Eagles rather than his Lady Stags are just some of the animations that filled this season. But as we are nearing the tail end of this conference, an even bigger and hotter things are just about to happen: THE WAR.
Yes, I said it clearly, the finals will be a war between Ateneo Lady Eagles and National U Lady Bulldogs. Both are very confident coming to this series, of course Ateneo finishing the Tigresses in 2-0 Semis while NU manage to escape the equallt hungry Adamson Lady Falcons in a 2-1 series of their own. Going into this Finals, the Bulldogs also bagged all individual awards such as best scorer, spiker, receiver, setter except for the best blocker which is awarded to Maika Ortiz of UST and the still unannounce MVP of the conference. Although those awards will really help boost the team’s confidence, I can corageously say that we can throw all the stats and standings. After all this is finals and not just eliminations. It is very noteworthy to say too that this two teams met during the Quarterfinals and the Bulldogs defeated the Eagles in straight 3 sets.
Lady Bulldogs: The Hungry Young Blood
For all those who know the NU volleyball team, you will all agree to me when I say that this is the strongest, most intact bunch of players they had ever had. They have the maturities of Rubi de Leon (Guest Player; Setter) & Dindin Santiago (Reg. Player; Middle Blocker) who both are gelling well for a first time teammates. Nonetheless, this team is still considered as the younger one. Aiko Urdas (Reg. Player; Utility Spiker), who has been very incremental in the team’s success so far, is surprisingly just a 1st year player. Jaja Santiago (Guest Player; Middle Blocker) is only 16 years old and is yet to go to college. This is the first time on V-league’s history that NU made it to the Finals. Last UAAP, they hoped for atleast a Finals appearance [they even reserved Jen Reyes's (Reg. Player; Libero) last and final year for a stronger defense] but they just ended 4th place.
Strengths/Plays to execute: To say that the quick and running attacks of Dindin & Rubi are the bread & butter of the team is still an understatement. Ateneo will surely prepare to block those that’s why I must say Dindin can be a decoy this time and set the plays to other unguarded players such as Myla Pablo (Reg. Player; Opener). They got one rotation which Dindin is positioned on the open spiker’s position and they must get that once in a rotation point. Blocking completely belongs to NU and so it must be their first line of offense.
Weaknesses/Points of improvement: During Game 3 vs the Lady Falcons, it was shown that whenever it is crucial and Jaja is on the frontline rather than Dindin, she never get the ball to attack with or without receive and Ateneo can know that by this point so they’ll just check on the corners and that will be easier for the Eagles especially if it is on the conclusion of the set. Rubi also has this tendency to lose focus whenever it is Semifinals or Finals. She is an MVP contender and that means she is very, very important for the team and she can’t play ‘okay'; not against Ateneo.
Crucial player: The team captain in Dindin will surely be consistent as she has been during the UAAP and this whole conference. So instead of pointing out to her, I would say other 2 players. One, Jen Reyes, the Best Receiver & Best Digger this conference. She must receive the heavy services of Bualee, Tejada, Daquis & Valdez plus read the blocking of Ateneo very well for coverage. I know that is too much but she has to be the crucial part of this team at this point. Without her presence, I doubt NU will reach this far. And two, Mina Aganon (Reg. Player; Opener). She has been a revelation for the whole volleyball society. I remember watching her UAAP games and I would ask, “Why is she on the line up?” Now all my doubts on her are coming back to me like a slap because she really turned on her A-game. She’s hitting off and through the block; she’s even making a clean cross court kill! BUT, she must absorb that this is Finals and jitters might come but she has to shake it off. I’m very impress but Mina has never been to a Finals game. Why is she crucial? Because no one can replace her spot. I don’t know where Maricar Nepomuceno (Reg. Player; Opener/Utility) is but she isn’t found during the Semis while looking at the bench, it is Desiree Dadang (Reg. Player; Middle/Opener) who will make the substitution. Dadang is a decent player but her skills are not just yet for the Finals type.
ADMU: The Vultures For 3-Peat
Vulture is a tough name to call them but they really seems to be. As stated, NU handily defeated them in straight sets and this is their time for revenge. I can smell that with or without organized plays and focusness of the Bulldogs, the Eagles will act like vultures that will circle around and finish what must be finished. Of course it is not as easy as I might sound but the way Alyssa Valdez (Reg. Player; Opener/Middle/Utility) and Jang Bualee (Guest Player; Opener/Middle/Utility) played against their games in Semis vs UST, they seemed like they knew championship is theirs already.
Strengths/Plays to execute: Ateneo is playing in a very unorthodox type of volleyball that there is a rotation when Valdez is the opener another for middle and another for utility; the same goes for Bualee. Although I must admit that I am not a fan of that type of volleyball, I cannot deny the fact that those plays will be very confusing to defend and to block. They should just master it as there are still lapses during their last game. I really can’t say much here since Ateneo is a powerhouse this conference having Rachelle Ann Daquis (Guest Player; Opener) and then replacing Patnongon (Guest Player; Middle Blocker) with San Sebastian’s ever loyal Guest Player from Thailand, Jang Bualee. So honestly, offense is a piece of cake.
Weaknesses/Points of improvement: Going into Finals, the Eagles (or vultures?) are the more dominant being a back-to-back V-league champs and pointing out their weakness is a headache. Although I have two points of concern for them. One, blocking. Not that they are on the tailend of standings when it comes to blocking, they are a strong blocking team but this Finals, they are dealing with the best blocking team in the league. Being the best blocking team, NU must know as well how to elude and use the blockers for a point and the Eagles must know that. And two, attitude. Sure they are the crowd favorite and they are very humble (or at least they seem to be). But going on to the Finals with a strong line up must have a mental effect that can be a little too rude that what is needed. I like attitude inside the court because that adds flavor to the game, but more can be less. I hate to point this but Jem Ferrer (Reg. Player; Setter) has a tendency to make a duck a face and point to the opponent’s court whenever her attackers got an impact point. That’s okay but too much of that can lead to a disastrous ending.
Crucial player: For me, the crucial player here still is Alyssa Valdez. She’s a power hitter; she is truly phenominal even way back highschool in UST. However, I must point out that if she gets blocked often she can be very frustrated that she’s commiting a lot of errors. During UAAP, when she is at this point she will be replace by Ella de Jesus (Reg. Player; Opener) and Ella is really amazing. But this time, Ella can’t just simply replace Alyssa. Why? Remember, Ateneo is pushing Valdez to play Open, Utility and Middle and I just don’t suppose the ELLAvator is up for this rotations.
I said it before & I’ll say it again: this is a war. We will be seeing high quality volleyball, attacks and combination plays. Whichever team wins this series wills urely be very proud and I’ll give them small room to be rude since this is gonna be an excellent match up. For just another side story, Ateneo has never won a UAAP championship while NU has one during UAAP ’56-’57. The best-of-three finals series Game 1 will be on Thursday, May 23, 2013 and will be held at the MOA Arena.
Disclaimer: All photos credit to the owner.