NU's Jaja Santiago eyes the ball against Adamson's defense. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- The National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs outlasted the Adamson University Lady Falcons in four hard-fought sets to win its sixth game in the UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball tournament Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In one of the most thrilling encounters of the season, NU bucked a heartbreaking loss in the opening set to win the next three, 26-28, 25-21, 30-28, and 25-20.
"Ang naging problema lang namin kasi sa start pa lang, medyo mabagal na talaga," said NU coach Edjet Mabayyad after the game. "Nakita namin na iba 'yung galaw ng mga bata, masyadong tight."
"Natutuwa naman kami dahil naka-recover sila at nabawi nila," he added.
NU was at set point, 26-25, in the opening set but Adamson ended the frame with a 3-0 blast, finished off by a Mae Macatuno drop on the second touch, to steal the set.
The Lady Bulldogs succumbed to errors in the first part of the second set, and trailed 5-8 going into the first technical timeout before regrouping.
The Santiago sisters, DinDin and Jaja, came up with the key hits late as NU overhauled a slim 20-21 lead and scored the last five points of the set.
The third set was one for the ages, as Adamson rallied from a 4-9 deficit early to make it a nip-and-tuck affair until the very end. After Jaja Santiago powered NU to a 23-21 lead, veteran Shiela Pineda scored clutch hits for Adamson and put the Lady Falcons at set point first, 24-23.
Showing great fortitude, the Lady Bulldogs saved a stunning four set point, the last at 28-27 after Amanda Villanueva beat the NU blockers. Mina Aganon scored twice, then Jaja Santiago put the finishing touches on the set when she blocked an Adamson attack for a 30-28 win.
The Lady Falcons were noticeably a step slower in the fourth set. And while they gave the Lady Bulldogs some trouble after the second technical timeout, NU was able to keep them at bay thanks to kills from the Santiago sisters, Aganon, and Myla Pablo.
Jaja Santiago was named the Player of the Game after finishing with 14 points on 10 attacks and four blocks.
Aside from Santiago, four other players scored in double digits for NU led by Aganon with 15 points. Aiko Urdas and Pabl both finished with 13 point.
Pineda topscored for Adamson with 24 points, but Villanueva was the only other player in double-digits with 14 points.
NU ended the first round with a 6-1 record, with their only setback coming at the hands of defending champions De La Salle University.
Adamson, meanwhile, now has a 3-3 record.