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Fastbreak’s UAAP Power Rankings: Morente, Laure on Superstar mode

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After the hotly-contested first round of eliminations, the race to the Final Four just got tighter than ever with Ateneo and UST finally playing to their pre-season billing.

UP and La Salle started hot, but we have always said that the team with resilient seasoned players such as Ateneo, UST and NU are the ones which will have the stamina to compete until the homestretch.

Here is Fastbreak’s power rankings in the last four matches of the first round over the weekend.

TOP PERFORMERS

1. Michelle Morente (Ateneo) – 25 points off 20 spikes and 3 blocks; 19 excellent digs, 12 excellent receptions vs. La Salle

Clearly, the presence of Morente’s is the key to Ateneo’s dominating 6-1 record this season post the Alyssa Valdez era. The opposite spiker came up with a game-high 25 markers to lead Ateneo in a convincing 26-24, 26-24, 21-25 and 25-17 victory over defending champion De La Salle University. Ateneo actually trailed its last year’s Finals tormentor in the first two sets, but Morente was more determined than ever in sending the message that La Salle did not win last year’s title if only Morente was in the lineup.

2. EJ Laure (UST) – 17 points off 15 spikes and two service aces; 23 excellent digs vs. FEU

UST has become unstoppable this week with Laure turning out to be a beast on both offense and defense, especially during UST’s third straight win of the season vs. FEU, 25-16. 21-25, 26-24, 25-20. In a tightly fought third set, it was the former UAAP Rookie of the Year who had ice in her veins, posting a hit and a saving the ball via a dolphin dive, allowing UST setter Alex Cabaños to set up newbie Cait Viray for the winning point that UST never relinquished.

3. Shaya Adorador (UE) – 23 points off 20 spikes and two blocks; 21 excellent digs vs. Adamson

The vastly-improved UE finally clinched its first win of the season, thanks to a big-time performance from its skipper Shaya Adorador. After dropping the second set, Adorador took it upon herself to lead the change for UE that resulted in a 25-22, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18 win over the winless Adamson University. Moreover, Adorador also took a page from the Ms. Everything Cha Cruz’s book, registering 21 of UE’s 97 excellent digs.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

4. Jaja Santiago (NU) – 18 points off 14 spikes and two blocks vs. UP

The leading MVP candidate showed her never say die spirit in NU’s classic five set win against UP, 25-23, 25-17, 22-25, 18-25 and 15-12. With NU trailing at 10-12 in the penultimate that could have been the Lady Bulldog’s fourth straight loss, Santiago scored on a solid block, and that was all NU needed to get going and eventually steal the win.

5. Jema Galanza (Adamson) – 18 points off 15 spikes; 24 excellent digs, 11 excellent receptions vs. UE

The hardworking Galanza did everything, but that was not enough to stop Adamson from its seventh straight loss. Shoutout to Galanza’s teammates: Volleyball is a team sport, guys.

LETDOWNS

1. Des Cheng (La Salle) – 5 points vs. Ateneo

Des Cheng is a veteran, but she doesn’t look like it. Facing their rival Ateneo, Cheng succumbed to the bright lights and only registered five points in La Salle’s defeat to last year’s bridesmaids. Yes, Cheng is coming from an injury, but so is Ateneo’s Kat Tolentino who injured her knee thrice before finally suiting up for the Lady Eagles this year.

Tolentino scored 18 points, in her very first Ateneo-La Salle rivalry game at that.

2. Judith Abil (UE) – 1 point vs. Adamson

Abil’s patented energy was nowhere to be found vs. Adamson. Maybe its because she is playing against a team which is yet to win a game, but we have to remind her that a competitor does not take any team for granted.

3. Jerili Malabanan (FEU) – 6 points vs. UST

After consistently finishing in double digits for the Lady Tams, Malabanan had an anemic six-point outing vs. the Golden Tigresses. As a result, FEU Coach Shaq Delos Santos replaced her with Heather Guinoo, who also failed to deliver. (Alex Cerado)