It is said that defending a title is harder than winning it, but the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers are up to the task of repeating as champions.
The Lady Blazers will begin their title defense tomorrow at the start of the NCAA Season 98 women’s volleyball tournament. For their first test, Benilde will face a retooled San Sebastián Lady Stags squad at 12:00 p.m. at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila. This match will be followed by an exciting clash between last season’s runners-up, the Arellano Lady Chiefs, and the JRU Lady Bombers, a team that reached the Final Four.
Last season, the Lady Blazers had an undefeated run on their way to the championship for the school’s second title. This year, however, will be a tougher challenge for Benilde, as they will miss the services of NCAA Season 97 Most Valuable Player Mycah Go, who suffered an injury in the offseason. Nevertheless, the defending champions can still rely on veterans like team captain Cloanne Mondoñedo, reigning Finals MVP Gayle Pascual, as well as Michelle Gamit and Cristy Ondangan.
As part of their preparations for the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament, all 10 schools competed in the Shakey’s Super League Pre-season Collegiate Tournament, which was held from September to December and also included all 8 UAAP schools.
The Lady Stags, mentored by Roger Gorayeb, will be led by last year’s Rookie of the Year Katherine Santos, Amaka Tan, Kristine Joy Dionisio, and Tina Marasigan, and are coming off a Final Four appearance. Meanwhile, after losing in last year’s finals, the Lady Chiefs are determined to reclaim the title, and they will have players like team captain Trina Abay, Kristine Adante, and Charmina Diño to try to win the school’s fifth championship.
The Lady Bombers, on the other hand, will be without last season’s 2nd Best Outside Hitter Dolly Verzosa, but will still have players like team captain Syd Niegos, Maliey Amante, Riza Rose, and Mary May Ruiz. Aside from last year’s Final Four teams, another squad on the rise is the Perpetual Lady Altas, the only NCAA team that managed to reach the quarterfinals in the Shakey’s Super League. Among the players to watch out for the Lady Altas are team captain Razel Aldea, Mary Rhose Dapol, Winnie Bedana, and rookie Shaila Omipon.
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