Bella Belen (middle) and the NU Lady Bulldogs. UAAP PHOTO

FILE–Bella Belen (middle) and the NU Lady Bulldogs. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — National University opens its title retention bid against Ateneo in the UAAP Season 85 men’s and women’s volleyball tournaments starting on February 25 at Mall of Asia Arena.

Coming off a 16-0 championship run, the Lady Bulldogs kick off their drive for a second straight title against last season’s bronze medalists Blue Eagles at 2 p.m.

The star-studded NU team, composed of reigning season MVP Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, Lams Lamina, Sheena Toring, Cess Robles, and Jennifer Nierva, ended a 65-year title drought in Season 84. 

NU coach Karl Dimaculangan will face Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, who will be banking on Faith Nisperos, Vanie Gandler, and AC Miner.

The men’s volleyball tournament is also finally returning with NU continuing its drive for an elusive ‘three-peat’ after its season got wiped out by the COVID-19 Pandemic last 2020.

Bulldogs’ coach Dante Alinsunurin and his wards Joshua Retamar, Nico Almendras, and Michaelo Buddin start their campaign against the Blue Eagles at 4 p.m.

Adamson and University of the East will raise the curtain with the Falcons and Red Warriors clashing at 10 a.m.

Lady Falcons’ new coach Jerry Yee makes his debut at 12 noon against the Lady Red Warriors.

La Salle vs UST

Meanwhile, the La Salle Lady Spikers, last year’s runner-ups, jumpstart their campaign against the rookie-laden University of Santo Tomas on Sunday, 2 p.m., at the same venue in Pasay City.

Angel Canino is set for her collegiate debut, joining Thea Gagate, Alleiah Malaluan, Jolina Dela Cruz, Mars Alba, and Justine Jazareno against an Eya Laure-led team, which beefed up its roster with prized recruits Xyza Gula, Regina Jurado, Pierre Abellana, and Cassie Carballo.

La Salle Green Spikers’ prized recruit Noel Kampton also makes his UAAP debut against national team coach Odjie Mamon and the UST Tiger Spikers at 4 p.m.

Veteran tactician Shaq Delos Santos returns to the UAAP on Sunday with his new team University of the Philippines facing his alma mater and ex-squad Far Eastern University at 12 p.m. after the men’s match between the two schools.

The UAAP will have a mix of men’s and women’s matches every Saturday and Sunday. But every Wednesday, both divisions will have a quadruple-double with the men’s league being held at Philsports Arena.

Fierce rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles and La Salle Lady Spikers will meet on March 5 at MOA Arena. The rivalry game will have separate tickets for the day.

Last year’s finalists NU and La Salle will renew their rivalry on March 18 at FilOil EcoOil Centre.

The other notable match-up in the men’s division is on March 4 when former national team coach Alinsunurin’s Bulldogs take on incumbent interim Philippine men’s squad tactician Mamon and the Tiger Spikers at MOA Arena.

NU and FEU, the finalists of Season 81, will have their long overdue rematch on March 19 at FilOil EcoOil Centre.

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