The Shakey’s V-League match between San Sebastian and UST had the makings of a huge one.
In Group B of the preliminaries where the two schools were bracketed, NU is leading the way with an immaculate 4-0 record. UST was 1-1, while San Sebastian was 1-2. Both teams needed a way to stay in competition for the next stage.
The fire of the NCAA season has clearly gone down for the Lady Stags. They were tops at the end of the elimination round of the last NCAA Women’s Volleyball Season. Come the second stage that is the round robin Final Four, they lost all three of their matches to drop to fourth place. The malaise of the losing streak and the dropping of their intensity level have continued to the Shakey’s V-League.
Following their three-set sweep at the hands of NU, the players held a closed-door meeting after an angry Roger Gorayeb left early (it was his birthday that day).
The Lady Stags are like a diesel engine. They take a while to heat up and get going. By that time they start to play well, they’ve been spotted a lead by a set or even two making it hard to mount a comeback.
The Sunday evening match last April 13 was between two former league powers. Both San Sebastian and UST used to be queens of the sport in their respective leagues, the NCAA and the UAAP. In recent years, other schools, namely the University of Perpetual Help in the NCAA; and Ateneo, La Salle and NU in the UAAP have stolen the spotlight. The two traditional college powers are now reloading but for now, there was a match to play.
The meeting had a little edge to it owing to former Golden Tigress star Maru Banaticla suiting up for San Sebastian as a guest player. Unknown to most , she was shockingly dropped from the UST lineup last season by their head coach for unexplained reasons. Eventually it told on UST’s campaign as they could have used Banaticla for the late Final Four run that never materialized. But Maru stayed away, hurt from all that happened and instead called on Gorayeb if she could find a place with his PLDT team in the Philippine Super Liga. More than that, the veteran coach also added her as SSCR’s guest player for the first conference of the V-League.
Banaticla was looking forward to the match with her former team despite not being 100% following a first-set ankle injury against Perpetual Help more than a week before. “Subukan ko,” she gamely said.
As the first set unfolded, she didn’t have her usual lift and was blocked on four occasions by her former teammates. She left midway through the first set never to return.
Banaticla wasn’t the only one to get rejected time and again by UST’s superb net defense that was led by Marivic Meneses. The Lady Stags’ own phenom, Gretchel Soltones, was back after being out for several games also due to an ankle injury. But Meneses and Ejiya Laure repeatedly denied Soltones who couldn’t get through the blocks.
On UST’s offensive end, it was team captain Pam Lastimosa and Laure who did the damage en route to a 25-16 first-set win. Come the second set, San Sebastian found life with Czar Berbano (who gamely battled UST all match long for a team high 13 points) and Ara Mallare while setter Trisha Crisostomo found her groove. The Lady Stags took the second set 25-20 and things were looking up for them.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any consistency and their poor play was their own undoing. They repeatedly misfired on the offensive end with shots that went wide and out or spikes that hit their own net. Roger Gorayeb juggled his lineup to find an antidote to his team’s poor play. He benched starting libero Alyssa Eroa and Soltones in place of Mae Crisostomo and Jolina Labiano but they were even worse in the third set that Golden Tigresses took easily, 25-14.
UST head coach Odjie Mamon found better success in pulling players from his bench. Chlodia Cortez helped out Meneses on defense and provided big points from the utility position (she scored six points). Shannen Palec and Rhea Dimaculangan were especially solid on their booming serves that gave San Sebastian all sorts of defensive problems.
The trio of Laure (18 points), Meneses (15 points), and Lastimosa (11) points spelled trouble for San Sebastian as they points were coming from everywhere. Even the hustle of Patricia Santos who only came in for a few plays towards the end of the third set sparked UST. Santos saved a ball from dropping in when she lunged for it and sent in back into play. The Golden Tigresses scored further boosting their confidence.
In the fourth and final set, UST staked them to a huge lead as San Sebastian fell apart with even more misfires from Bea Uy, Labiano and Soltones. Denice Lim came in and scored eight huge points to bring the Lady Stags to within two points but their offensive and defensive problems persisted as UST pulled away for a 25-20 set win to notch their second victory in three matches. San Sebastian dropped to 1-3.