Heartbreakers, Gatekeepers, Streak Busters: La Salle and UST’s History in the UAAP Volleyball Final Four 

La Salle and UST will meet once again in the UAAP volleyball Final Four. Ahead of that, let’s revisit their past playoff meetings. 

For a second straight season, the UST Golden Tigresses and La Salle Lady Spikers will be each other’s first challenge for UAAP volleyball glory. UST seeks to finally win an elusive championship, while La Salle attempts to repeat after a dominant UAAP Season 85 run. 

However, this is just the latest chapter in the two teams’ rivalry of sorts. Especially in the 2010s, La Salle and UST have gone back and forth in the Final Four, denying each other of a (consecutive) championship, or a finals berth, at least. 

So before we get into the heat of this season’s match-up, let’s revisit UST and La Salle’s Final Four encounters, which go way back to when UAAP volleyball was still played at smaller venues like the UP College of Human Kinetics gym in Diliman.

UAAP Season 66 (2004): Changing of the guard? 

La Salle and UST’s first verified Final Four meeting was in UAAP Season 66, wherein La Salle had to overcome the second-seeded Tigresses’ twice to beat advantage. Based on reports, the Lady Spikers forced a do-or-die against the Tigresses, before reaching the Finals against the FEU Lady Tamaraws. 

UAAP Season 66 went on to be the start of La Salle’s first three-peat under Ramil de Jesus. Before they knew it, the Tigresses — an accomplished team themselves — had actually faced the next big thing in collegiate volleyball. 

UAAP Season 67 (2005): Season sweep, but…
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La Salle’s UAAP Season 67 championship squad. (Photo Credit: Take Aim on Instagram)

Technically, there was no Final Four in UAAP Season 67 following La Salle’s elimination round sweep, which was enough to win the UAAP championship at the time. 

Last to face the Lady Spikers that season were the UST Golden Tigresses, who they defeated in a hard-fought five-setter to win the title. Included in that La Salle squad were eventual icons like Manilla Santos, Maureen Penatrente, Desiree Hernandez, and Sharmaine Penano. 

UAAP Season 68 (2006): Another meeting en route to a three-peat 

In UAAP Season 68, La Salle’s first championship obstacle was…the UST Golden Tigresses (again). At this point, the Lady Spikers were on track to achieve their first UAAP volleyball three-peat and had dispatched the Tigresses in back-to-back seasons. 

And Season 68 was no different as La Salle swept the Ging Balse-led Tigresses. As older fans might know, they proceeded to complete their hat-trick by beating the Adamson Lady Falcons in the Finals. 

Unfortunately, all of La Salle would be suspended the following season due to eligibility issues within their men’s basketball team. Without the Lady Spikers, Balse and the Tigresses went on to win the UAAP Season 69 volleyball tournament, also the last for UST’s legendary coach Augusto Santamaria. 

UAAP Season 72 (2010): UST sweeps La Salle for most recent championship 
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UST first solved the La Salle puzzle in 2010. (Photo Credit: Richard Esguerra via Angeli Tabaquero on Instagram)

In 2010, UST won its second Final Four era championship under Shaq delos Santos’ mentorship and a core led by Rhea Dimaculangan, Aiza Maizo, and Angeli Tabaquero.

That crop of Tigresses went on to sweep La Salle for the UAAP championship. While Game 1 was fairly close, Game 2 was a dominant effort, with set scores of 25-18, 25-18, 15-25, and 25-15 for UST — a fitting way to start the 2010s given UST’s history with the green-and-white.

Season 72 remains as UST’s most recent UAAP volleyball championship, and we’ve yet to see whether or not the current crop of Tigresses can finally add to their trophies in España. 

UAAP Season 73 (2011): Sweet revenge for the Lady Spikers
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La Salle’s Stephanie “Paneng” Mercado, Jacqueline Alarca, and Cha Cruz after winning the Season 73 title. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Mercado on Facebook)

A season later, the Lady Spikers got even by sweeping UST in their Finals rematch, also capped off by a lopsided 25-18, 25-17, and 28-26 Game 2 victory. The Tigresses also retained stars Dimaculangan and Maizo for their championship defense, making the payback much sweeter for the Lady Spikers. 

On the other hand, La Salle’s own veterans in Jacq Alarca, Paneng Mercado, and Cha Cruz powered that championship run, while a younger Michele Gumabao and Aby Maraño were in their early years with the Lady Spikers. 

Following this season, the La Salle and UST Final Four encounters would be sidelined for a while. The Lady Spikers would begin their iconic rivalry with the Ateneo Lady Eagles, while UST would struggle for quite some time.  

UAAP Season 79 (2017): La Salle spoils Coach Kung Fu, Sisi’s Final Four debut
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Some of La Salle’s Season 79 stars, including Majoy Baron, Kianna Dy, and Des Cheng. (Photo Credit: Majoy Baron on Instagram)

UST and La Salle’s next Final Four encounter took place six seasons later. UST now had Kung Fu Reyes as head coach, and star players Sisi Rondina and EJ Laure, while La Salle fielded icons like Kim Fajardo, Kim Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron, and Dawn Macandili.

Despite UST ending their Final Four drought, they were eliminated by two-seed La Salle in the playoffs. Inevitably, the Lady Spikers’ star power was too much for the Tigresses in the 25-14, 25-20, 24-26, and 25-13 blowout. 

UAAP Season 81 (2019): UST ends La Salle, RDJ’s 10-year Finals streak 
Some of UST’s Season 81 players, including Sisi Rondina, Dimdim Pacres, Janel Delerio and Caitlin Viray. (Photo Credit: Sisi Rondina on Instagram)

UAAP Season 81 was a memorable one for the Tigresses. Besides securing a Finals berth, the Tigresses also had La Salle’s number throughout the season, which included a huge Final Four victory.

In a playoff for the second seed, the Tigresses defeated the Lady Spikers 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-19 to secure a twice-to-beat advantage and push La Salle to a third-seed finish.  

It was in their Final Four matchup that UST made history, beating La Salle in a gritty five-set match. By doing so, the Tigresses snapped the Lady Spikers’ 10-year UAAP volleyball Finals streak — two of which were against UST as mentioned. 

UAAP Season 85 (2023): La Salle ends the Eya Laure era, however…
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Some key players in La Salle’s eventual title run. (Photo Credit: UAAP Season 85 Media Team)

Due to Covid-19 disruptions, and a UAAP Season 84 stepladder, La Salle and UST’s next Final Four clash ended up being in UAAP Season 85 last year. The Lady Spikers emerged victorious in that matchup, beating the Tigresses in four sets, 26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, to punch a Finals ticket.

Of course, La Salle went on to complete their redemption bid with a sweep over the NU Lady Bulldogs. For UST, their loss turned out to be the final games of Eya Laure, Imee Hernandez, Milena Alessandrini, and Kecelyn Galdones, and Maji Mangulabnan for the black-and-gold. 

Despite the loss though, UST was La Salle’s lone tormentor that season. Behind Laure’s 29 points, the Tigresses shut down the eventual champs in four sets, which also ensured a regular Final Four would be in place for the season. 

UAAP Season 86 (2024): ? 
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UST’s young Tigresses. (Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

This season, a much younger Tigresses squad swept the Lady Spikers during the UAAP Season 86 volleyball eliminations. Can UST keep that up in the Final Four?

Or will La Salle finally slow down the cat-like Mini Misses on the big stage?

Does speed kill, or are the great walls of Taft very much intact?

We find out on Sunday, April 5, at 6 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay. 

Banner Image courtesy of the UAAP Season 86 Media Team.

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