All set for NU-La Salle Finals rematch

NU’s Bella Belen (left) and La Salle’s Angel Canino UAAP PHOTOS

Reigning champion National University and runner-up De La Salle begin their Finals rematch today, May 7 in Game One of the UAAP Season 85 women's volleyball best-of-three championship series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Spikers collide at 4 p.m., succeeding the men's stepladder knockout semifinals match between the University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University set at 2 p.m.

Unlike last year when it swept all of Season 84, the NU volleybelles, who finished second after the elimination round with an 11-3 slate, had to sweat it out to return to the Big Dance this Season 85.

The Lady Bulldogs, led by reigning MVP Bella Belen, lost thrice in the elimination round, one to the UST Golden Tigresses and the other two to the very Lady Spikers whom they are facing in the best-of-three championship series.

While losing to the top seed and 13-win and 1-loss La Salle twice, that even happening in back-to-back game dates, was such a disappointment for NU, Belen said that everyone is back to a clean slate when it comes to the Finals.

Belen, whose Lady Bulldogs bowed to the Lady Spikers, 10-25, 15-25, 21-25, on March 22 and 24-26, 24-26, 16-25 on March 25 said that the Finals is about who wants it more.

“The finals is a different beast. We might have lost in the first and second round but that's water under the bridge already. Everyone's back to zero in the finals where the winner will be determined by which team wants it more,” said Belen.

Belen and company also want to get payback against the Lady Spikers especially to Canino, who beat Belen in the Season 81 girls volleyball finals.

At that time, Belen was playing for NU Nazareth School while Canino for De La Salle Zobel as the latter denied the former and company a championship in their last playing year in high school.

“We're going to prepare for this finals matchup, especially against Angel. We fought her before [in high school] and the result didn't go so well. This is our chance to get back and to show our school pride. We want to show the whole UAAP community that we want to win this season and that we won't let anyone snatch our crown.”

After ending the eliminations with six straight wins, the win-once armed Lady Bulldogs put the Adamson Lady Falcons away, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-15, in their semifinals match last Wednesday, May 3.

NU stretched its win streak to seven games and advanced to the finals in the process.

On the other hand, the also win-once armed Lady Spikers booted out the Golden Tigresses, 26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, in their Final Four match also last Wednesday to enter the final with five straight wins.

Winning the championship is the main goal for La Salle, which solitary loss in the eliminations came at the hands of UST.

“Winning the championship is a big deal because that's the goal of our team and not the individual awards,” said Canino, who is poised to win the Rookie of the Year award and possibly even the MVP plum.

“Our goal is to become a champion so we can show what we are in La Salle, that we're capable.”

The Lady Spikers, though, need to be capable of minimizing their errors after dishing out 31 against UST.

“We've always been telling our players to minimize their errors,” said La Salle assistant coach Noel Orcullo last Wednesday.

“We're lucky to win this one against UST. We need to minimize our errors heading to the Finals. We need to be sharp and avoid giving free points to the opposition.”

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