Reigning champion Ateneo and rival De La Salle headline the return of collegiate volleyball on the first game day of the UAAP Season 84 women’s tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City today.

Faith Nisperos of Ateneo (UAAP)

The Lady Eagles and the Lady Spikers renew their rivalry in their 4 p.m. match as Ateneo seeks early revenge for its loss last Season 82 before the Covid-19 pandemic halted the sporting world and the remainder of the season.

The Katipunan-based squad begins its title retention bid and leans on the likes of Dani Ravena, former Juniors Most Valuable Player Faith Nisperos, and Jaja Maraguinot against a powerhouse Taft team paraded by Jolina Dela Cruz and Thea Gagate.

This also marks an early encounter between Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro and multi-titled De La Salle tactician Ramil de Jesus.

Both squads lost a handful of members with Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston, Jho Maraguinot, and Jules Samonte over in Ateneo and Aduke Ogunsanya, Tin Tiamzon, and recently Michelle Cobb for De La Salle.

For most teams, “excitement” is the keyword to describe their return to the UAAP after a two-year lull due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The preparation that we had I hope would be enough for this short and intense tournament,” said Almadro. “We will just find a way, make a way on what we have. I’m sure La Salle will also give us a good fight and kami we will always give a beautiful game.”

UAAP executive director Atty. Rebo Saguisag said the tournament will be held in a close-circuit setup as players, coaches, and team staff are expected to be in a “home-training-game” routine.

This as the league successfully held its men’s basketball tournament, currently in the semifinals stage, with zero cases of Covid-19.

Saguisag added that it would be the team’s decision whether or not to stay in a bubble setup.

All eight teams will see action as neighbor schools University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University open the curtains at their 10 a.m. clash, National University faces Adamson at 12 noon, while University of the Philippines and University of the East cap off the quadruple-header at 6 p.m.

Source: Manila Bulletin (