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Ateneo, NU collide in opening day of UAAP women's volleyball

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Ateneo and NU will cross paths in Day 1 of the UAAP women's volleyball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Arena, the site of their recent marquee showdown.

In the official schedule released on Monday, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Bulldogs will clash in a rematch of last year's Shakey's V-League collegiate conference finals in the 4 p.m. match-up on Jan. 31.

NU, to be led anew by 6-5 middle blocker Jaja Santiago, fought back from a Game 1 loss to beat Ateneo, to be skippered once again by Alyssa Valdez, in the best-of-three championship series last October.

The Lady Eagles, tagged by many as favorites, will kick off their campaign for a third straight UAAP crown while giving Valdez a fitting farewell even as the Lady Bulldogs hope to build their momentum from the V-League conquest and win the UAAP pennant.

In the curtain-raiser at 2 p.m., Kathy Bersola will make her UAAP return as UP battles UE.

Bersola missed the second round of last season after suffering an ACL injury that many thought took a toll in the Lady Maroons' Final Four bid.

The San Juan court, dubbed by many as "Volleyball Central" for frequent hosting of V-League, PSL, NCAA, and UAAP games, will be the site of most of the first round games this year.

Action will then shift to the PhilSports Arena on Feb. 3 as four other teams tagged as pre-season Final Four contenders will begin their campaign.

UST and Adamson will battle each other at 2 p.m., while La Salle will welcome back Ara Galang, who also had a season-ending ACL injury last year in its showdown with FEU at 4 p.m.

The Pasig venue, which hosted two major volleyball tourneys last years including the AVC U-23 Championship, will host one more first round doubleheader on Feb. 6 featuring the UP-La Salle and the NU-Adamson games.

The Mall of Asia Arena will take its own turn of hosting a doubleheader on Feb. 10 as FEU exchanges spikes with Ateneo at 2 p.m. and La Salle tussles with NU at 4 p.m.

The UAAP will return to the Pasay venue for two more doubleheaders on Feb. 20-21.

Adamson and Ateneo collide in the 2 p.m. game of Feb. 20 to be followed by the UST-NU match.

The Feb. 21 twinbill will have UE against La Salle at 2 p.m. and UP versus FEU at 4 p.m.

The much-awaited finals rematch between Ateneo and La Salle will take place on Feb. 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

For the first time, a separate-ticket system similar to the Ateneo-La Salle basketball games will be implemented in the said volleyball match at 4 p.m.

To signify the ticketing rule for the said game, the UE-Adamson match was scheduled by the UAAP board at an 11 a.m. first serve or right after the scheduled men's volleyball doubleheader on the said day, which will have UST taking on Adamson and Ateneo battling NU in their own finals rematch.

(Editor's Note: The report was edited to reflect a change in the venue for the Feb. 20-21 games.)

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno