UAAP Volleyball Final Four: NU’s Redemption And FEU’s Rebirth

UAAP Season 86 volleyball Final Four action kicks off with top-seeded NU and fourth-seed FEU. How will that matchup fare? 

With twice-to-beat advantages finally sorted out, the UAAP Season 86 Volleyball Final Four is now complete. Headlining the playoff rounds are the top-seeded NU Lady Bulldogs and the fourth-seeded FEU Lady Tamaraws. 

For the second time in three seasons, the Lady Bulldogs clinched the top seed with their 12-2 record, while a 9-5 slate gave FEU the fourth seed–similar to their UAAP Season 81 finish.  

Now, let’s take a look at this matchup ahead of the UAAP Season 86 volleyball Final Four games next weekend. 

Season 86 eliminations journey 
UAAP volleyball final four: NU
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

NU: The Lady Bulldogs were shaky to start their UAAP Season 86 volleyball campaign. To start their season, the UAAP Season 85 runners-up were swept by the UST Golden Tigresses, while they needed a five-setter to take down a rebuilding Ateneo Blue Eagles squad. 

In between was a so-so outing against the Lady Tamaraws, wherein NU committed 28 unforced errors, and had a horror 13-25 second set defeat. Two games later, they proceeded to drop a five-setter against defending champs La Salle in a Season 85 Finals rematch.

It was in the second round that NU rediscovered their championship form, best seen in their four-set shutdown of UST before the Holy Week break.

Immediately after Holy Week, NU proceeded to sweep Ateneo and Adamson and defeated an Angel Canino-less La Salle in four sets. To complete their second-round domination, NU proceeded to sweep UE and FEU en route to a first-seed finish. 

UAAP volleyball final four: FEU
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

FEU: FEU meanwhile, had a fairly straightforward start to their UAAP Season 86 volleyball campaign. However, an early highlight was their first UST matchup, wherein an upset was imminent before UST orchestrated a reverse sweep.

The Lady Tams went on to finish the first half of the season with a 4-3 slate, with their losses coming against the top three UST, La Salle, and NU.

Like NU, the Lady Tams peaked in the second round. After Holy Week, FEU went on to win four straight victories, wherein they shut down a resurgent Ateneo squad and outplayed then-top seed UST to complete the Final Four cast. 

Despite the momentum, the Lady Tams were swept by also-resurgent NU to close out their elimination rounds. 

Team strengths

NU: NU enters the Final Four with the best UAAP Season 86 volleyball offense, finishing as the top spiking and setting team, and second-best serving squad behind UST.

Personnel-wise, NU has a big three of Alyssa Solomon, Vange Alinsug, and Bella Belen, while one-time best setter Lams Lamina continues to be their playmaker. Solomon and Alinsug are also the two most efficient spikers for the season with success rates of 41.61 and 40.69 percent respectively. 

Belen meanwhile, is a two-way star, being part of the top 10 spikers, servers, and diggers. The outside hitter is also the second-best receiver for the season, only behind UST libero Detdet Pepito.

NU’s big three is often complemented by veteran Sheena Toring and captain Erin Pangilinan, effectively giving Lamina a variety of weapons to choose from. As we’ve all seen, the setter knows how to utilize everyone as well.

Defensively, the Lady Bulldogs’ blocking has shown flashes. While not as prominent as their attacks, the Lady Bulldogs finished as the fourth-best blocking team for UAAP Season 86, with 94 kill blocks, or an average of 1.84 rejections per set. 

Floor defense is also stable for NU, being the best-receiving team, and the top three squad in digging. In the Final Four, we can expect Belen and Lady Bulldogs libero Shaira Jardio to lead in this aspect of the defense. 

Based on everything we’ve seen, NU only needs to play their brand of volleyball heading into this UAAP volleyball Final Four matchup. At their peak, the Lady Bulldogs might just be the most complete team right now with high-level offense, and solid net and floor defense. 

(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 86 Media Team)

FEU: FEU is more of an all-around team. Their offense is there, being in the middle of the pack in terms of spikes and services, while their net defense is solid, being the third-best blocking team with 104 kill blocks, or an average of 1.99 rejections per set. 

The Lady Tams though will enter the Final Four with a major boost in Faida Bakanke, who’s become a focal point in FEU’s offense while being a reliable contributor to their net defense. Given this, Bakanke now accompanies Chen Tagaod as one of the Tams’ go-to weapons.

For the season, the Congolese hitter was the fifth-best spiker with a 37.50 percent efficiency and was the sixth-best blocker with a respectable 27 kill blocks for the season, or an average of 0.49 per set. 

Entering the Final Four, the Lady Tams should be focused on trying to at least limit the NU offense. But given their recent matchup, it’s a very tall order for FEU as they attempt to steal a game against the Lady Bulldogs. 

Either way, we can expect Bakanke and Tagaod to lead the Tams’ charge once more, while hopefully receiving contributions from names like Gerzel Petallo and Jean Asis along the way.

Way-too-early prediction 

This should be an easy win for NU. Throughout the second round, it’s been near impossible to contain the Lady Bulldogs’ offense and penetrate their mostly stable defense. 

Based on the last game alone, the gap between NU and FEU is also evident. Even with their resurgence, FEU struggled to get any form of momentum going as NU fired on all cylinders. 

Our bet? NU in straight sets, or probably four if FEU figures something out in their one-week preparation. 

Banner Image courtesy of the UAAP Season 86 Media Team.

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