Cubao, Quezon City
April 22, 2016
What is your favorite color?
Or let me be a little more specific: which of these two colors do you like better, blue or green?
I ask this because in a few hours, we will all be witnesses to what we all expect to turn out a classic. It’s Ateneo versus La Salle, ladies and gentlemen, battling it out in a best-of-three showdown for the UAAP women’s volleyball championship at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum where I’m sure it will be flooded by an ocean of blue and green.
Us, writers, journalist and bloggers alike, are usually color-blind. At least most of us are, as far as I know.
Whatever, a finals will never be complete without a fearless forecast. And I’ve decided to join the fun.
And let me break it down to you each and lay down every aspect possible and do the volleyball math before we make predictions.
Championship experience: La Salle has made it to the finals eight straight times and winning four titles along the way. Ateneo is on its fifth straight finals stint, losing the first two duels to its chief rival before seizing the next two to level their head-to-head championship duel. It’s almost pretty even. But I give this to the one that won more titles and made it to the finals more times in the last decade.
And it’s La Salle.
Go-to-player(s): If there’s someone who can be considered as the person La Salle goes to in the most difficult of times, it has got to be Kim Fajardo. But if you have an Alyssa Valdez, this year’s MVP (Ooops, spoiler alert!!!) and the single best attacking weapon in the country today, you have got to be a little confident out there.
So it’s Ateneo.
Depth: It’s actually pretty even as both Ateneo’s Tai Bundit and La Salle’s Ramil de Jesus rely heavily on a tight player rotation. De Jesus though has been dipping his hands to his magic box and has alternately summoned the likes of Maria Mikaela Esperanza, May Luna, Ernestibe Tiamzon and Christine Joy Soyud from the bench for some quality minutes including in its two Final Four duels with Far Eastern U. It didn’t help Ateneo that it is missing the services of Madie Madayag due to injury, depriving it of one added weapon to throw La Salle off guard.
La Salle, but very rather very slightly.
Defense: The league’s best blockers are from the Lady Archers–Mary Joy Baron and Mika Reyes. Ateneo is distant second in this department. There is also no contest that La Salle is the best receiving and digging team in the league combined. It is also noticeable that Ateneo is sixth in digging, which will mean a lot in a showdown of this magnitude where single play counts.
So yes, La Salle owns this by a mile.
Offense: Two words–Alyssa Valdez. One equivalent: End of the World.
Ateneo by an ocean.
Setter: This has been a never-ending debate since the start of this season when I declared without batting an eyelash that Kim Fajardo will be the league’s best setter. As always, I was right. Fajardo proved me right. If Morado can outplay her the way she did in their second round match in the eliminations, it will tip victory to the side of Ateneo. But as we speak, Fajardo has never wavered.
Hunger: Valdez has never lost her appetite for a championship. I think the whole of Ateneo too. But I think La Salle will be hungrier considering that it has lost to Ateneo the last two seasons and they will use it as motivation in Ateneo-La Salle V.
Coaches: Ramil de Jesus is one of the best volleyball coaches out there. He’s got the experience and I rank him in the top three best local mentors in the land. However, Tai Bundit has more international experience and has translated it to twin championships in the UAAP. And he doesn’t even speak a lot of English.
X-Factor: I like how Cyd Demecillo play. She does some of the dirty work. But she’s a little bit inconsistent. And I like Amy Ahomiro more. She does things that can not be seen in the stat sheets. She is Ateneo’s silent but effective worker. She’ll do things in the finals that will hurt La Salle. If there is an award for Ms. Intangibles, Ahomiro has my vote.
Sportsmaryosep’s Prognosis: There is no favorites nor underdogs in this series. I say it’s a toss. My heart beats for Ateneo while my head is screaming La Salle. I’m a numbers guy, after all. And usually, I go with science and what I think.
Looking at above, it’s La Salle 5, Ateneo 4.
So it’s La Salle, by a mere hairline.
Or I could be wrong. Because we’re all just mere mortals, a tiny speck in the vastness of this universe. So believe what you believe, keep the faith and follow it. Somewhere, somehow, it could be the difference between victory and defeat.
In the end, it will boil down to heart, something that is impossible to measure. The team that will show a lot of it will win it. It could be La Salle. Or Ateneo.
To end, let me share this famous quote by Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich that I always believed in. As in always.
“We had non-believers all along the way, and I have one thing to say to those non-believers: Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion!”
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
Photos courtesy of Leo Lopez and Volleyball Ph!