Ateneo Lady Eagles seek Final 4 berth vs UST

Ateneo de Manila sets its eyes on the first Final Four berth in first game without injured middle Maddie Madayag.

Two-time champion Ateneo de Manila University will go for the first Final Four berth against University of Santo Tomas (UST) even without their ace hitter Maddie Madayag on Saturday at the UAAP Season 78 women's volleyball tournament.

Madayag came down with a season-ending ACL injury last Wednesday. 

The Lady Eagles hope to stretch their winning streak to three without Madayag in the match scheduled at 4 p.m.

National University and Far Eastern University will clash at 2 p.m. in a pivotal match-up that could be the turning point in the race for the last semis slot.

Ateneo is currently tied with De La Salle in first place at 8-2, two games ahead of University of the Philippines (6-4) in the race for the second twice-to-beat slot in the Final Four.

Without Madayag, one of the league's best servers, the Lady Eagles' offense is expected to suffer. This will also force Amy Ahomiro and Bea de Leon to step up and fill the gap.

Ateneo, however, remains potent with reigning MVP Alyssa Valdez and her heir apparent Jho Maraguinot leading the way, especially during crunch time, along with setter Jia Morado.

(READ: Madayag-less Lady Eagles set eyes on first semis seat)

Locked in a three-way tie with the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Bulldogs at 5-5 in fourth place, the Tigresses need to play their A-game to remain on course in the Final Four race.

Sophomores EJ Laure and Cherry Rondina, along with veterans Carmela Tunay and Jessey de Leon, will be the vital cogs for UST, which is coming off a narrow 25-21, 17-20, 20-25, 25-23, 15-12 victory over Adamson University last Wednesday. 

The Tigresses bowed to the Lady Eagles in the first round, part of their three-game losing streak to start the season.

FEU hopes to regain its winning ways after a 17-25, 10-25, 21-25 loss to Ateneo last Sunday, putting a dent on its Final Four drive.

Coming off a horrible stretch where it lost four of five, NU got a needed shot in the arm following a 25-15, 25-12, 25-11 thumping of winless University of the East.

In the men's division, the back-to-back seeking Blue Eagles (9-1) also shoot for the first Final Four berth against the Growling Tigers (4-6) at 10 a.m., right after the surging Green Spikers (4-6) and the Falcons (6-4) take on the floor at 8 a.m.

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