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Ateneo-La Salle Episode VI: Lady Eagles conquer Lady Tamaraws for sixth straight Finals

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After all the fuss, it’s Ateneo-La Salle all over again.

Unlike their two five-set elimination round meetings, the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles needed only four frames to outclass the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws and book their sixth straight Finals ticket, 25-22, 25-10, 16-25, 26-24, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Eagles — who lost the catalyst to their first five Finals appearances, Alyssa Valdez — leaned on a total team effort orchestrated by setter Jia Morado.

Ateneo started the match dissecting FEU’s reception. The Lady Eagles marched to a 24-19 lead before Bernadeth Pons mustered a late rally, scoring three straight and forcing Ateneo to a timeout. A long rally followed which Jhoana Maraguinot capped with a thunderous smash.

Ateneo dominated even more in the second set, taking a 22-9 lead before facing a stronger challenge in the third set. The Lady Tamaraws broke away from a 10-all deadlock in the third set, after errors from Ateneo brought them to an insurmountable 23-13 lead.

A 10-4 gap greeted the Lady Tamaraws in the fourth set, at which they bravely nibbled away, eventually taking a 21-20 lead after a Pons hit. The set dragged into a deuce, but conversions from Michelle Morente and Ana Gopico prevented another fifth set match and sent Ateneo to the Finals.

“Siguro we really had to first, ang sinabi nga ni Coach Tai, we really had to calm ourselves. We had to meditate kasi if we stuck to the game plan naman, lahat naman ng ginagawa ng FEU, napaghandaan naman namin.

“Yun lang talaga, we really had to go back to the basics kasi feeling ko, nataranta kami na maganda ang nilalaro ng FEU, pero nire-remind kami nila coach na bumalik sa basics,” said Ateneo captain Morado, who scored five points and tossed 51 excellent sets.

Ateneo middle blocker Bea De Leon earned Player of the Game honors with 12 points off nine attacks and three blocks. Morente finished with 16 points, while Maraguinot tallied 14 markers in her first match back after missing the last two games.

FEU skipper Remy Palma played her final UAAP match. In her five seasons, the Lady Tams made the Final Four four times. Palma finished with 12 points.

Ateneo will meet arch-rivals De La Salle University in the best-of-three Finals, with Game One on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. They face off for the sixth time with La Salle having won three of their previous five match ups.

The Scores

ADMU (3) – Morente 16, Maraguinot 14, De Leon 12, Tolentino 8, Gopico 5, Morado 5, Gequillana 1, Samonte 0, Wong (L)

FEU (1) – Pons 14, Palma 12, Villareal 9, Guino-O 7, Basas 5, Cayuna 2, Hernandez 1, Duremdes (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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