Ateneo's Marge Tejada (10) sends the ball past UST's defense. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Ateneo Lady Eagles notched their fifth consecutive win in thrilling fashion, bouncing back from a poor first set and overcoming an injury to a key player to defeat the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in five sets Wednesday at the San Juan Arena.
Team captain Alyssa Valdez scored 28 points but several other players also came up with key hits for the Lady Eagles as they beat UST, 15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20, and 15-13.
Ateneo played without promising rookie Ana Gopico in the fifth set when she twisted her knee after a bad fall late in the fourth set, but the Lady Eagles kept in step with the Tigresses as Valdez and UST’s Pam Lastimosa engaged in a thrilling battle.
The two players alternated points midway in the set, with a cut shot from Lastimosa giving UST an 11-10 lead before Valdez powered through the UST blockers to tie the game.
Lastimosa tied the game again at 12-all when she blocked Ateneo’s Amy Ahomiro, but Valdez got the lead back for her team with a down-the-line kill.
In the final plays of the fifth set, however, both Valdez and Lastimosa were in the back row, and it was up to the role players to finish off the game.
Ateneo reached set point when veteran Ella de Jesus beat the UST blockers to make it 14-12, but Ahomiro’s next attack did not cross the net, keeping UST alive, 14-13.
Ahomiro, who played one of her worst games of the season overall, quickly made up for her mistake, powering a spike through the UST blockers in the next play to give Ateneo the victory in the fifth set.
The Lady Eagles have now won five straight games heading into their highly anticipated showdown with rivals De La Salle on Sunday. The three-time defending champion Lady Spikers are undefeated at 5-0 and have yet to drop a set all season.
Ateneo was clearly out of sync in the first set, while UST played their best set of the season as their blocking and floor defense frustrated the Lady Eagles. Carmela Tunay came up with several kills for UST in the opening set, which saw them lead by 10 points multiple times.
The Lady Eagles equalized in the second set when Michelle Morente gave them a boost off the bench in place of the ineffective Amy Ahomiro. Ateneo was down by three, 19-22, when they unleashed a 6-2 run to end the set. Valdez provided the kills while Marge Tejada had a key block, but it was an error by UST that gave Ateneo the Set 2 win.
The victory in the second set seemed to boost the Lady Eagles, as they raced to a 16-12 lead in the third set. But coming out of the second technical timeout, UST unleashed an 8-1 run that allowed them to take a 20-17 lead.
Although Ateneo was able to regain the lead at 22-21, it was UST who ended the third set on a strong note as Chloe Cortez twice blocked Valdez’s attack, and Ateneo’s setter Julia Morado committed an error that handed UST the victory.
Ateneo was on its way to an easy victory in the fourth set, even leading by 10 points, 22-12, when Lastimosa came alive. The Lady Eagles were leading , 23-15, when Gopico suffered her injury, and Lastimosa sparked UST to come as close as four, 19-23.
Disaster struck when Jesse de Leon committed a service error, however, and Valdez’s crosscourt kill gave Ateneo the Set 4 victory, paving the way for the thrilling conclusion in the fifth set.
Lastimosa finished with 23 points in an inspired performance for the Tigresses, who have been maddeningly inconsistent throughout the season.
UST has now lost for the fourth time in six outings.