La Salle's Aby Marano (2nd from left) gestures to Mika Reyes (3) after the latter scored against Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Defending champions De La Salle pounced on an erratic Ateneo Lady Eagles squad to record their eighth consecutive victory in the UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The three-time defending champions Lady Spikers were clinical in their demolition of the Lady Eagles, using once again their intimidating blocking to take the victory in three sets, 25-14, 25-14 and 25-19.
La Salle got contributions from their old reliables Abi Marano, Ara Galang and Mika Reyes and got a stellar game as well from setter Kim Fajardo as they won for the 24th straight time dating back to Season 75.
"Compared sa first game namin, medyo masama 'yung receiving nila ngayon kaya medyo kontrolado," La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus said after the game.
As a team, Ateneo committed 29 errors and had only 20 attack points. La Salle had 22 errors of their own, but had 36 attack points, five blocks and five service aces.
Marano topscored for La Salle with 10 points, while Reyes added eight markers and Galang finished with seven. Fajardo had six points and 20 excellent sets.
"Isa naman 'yun sa kailangang gawin talaga ng setter," De Jesus said when asked about the distribution of points. "Magiging predictable kapag isa or dalawang tao lang ang binibigyan ng bola."
The Lady Eagles had some bright moments early in the opening set, but soon succumbed to a variety of unforced errors, including several service and receiving errors, that rendered them completely unable to set up their offense.
The first set was tied 3-3 after Alyssa Valdez scored an offspeed kill, but Ateneo committed net interference twice and Amy Ahomiro had a hitting error, allowing La Salle to take the lead for good.
With their floor defense in disarray, Ateneo was only able to score when La Salle committed errors of their own, which happened few and far between in the set.
The second set was more of the same as La Salle's net defense clearly bothered the Ateneo spikers, with even the usually steady Valdez going wide on her down-the-line kills.
Even the insertion of bench players Bea Tan and Gizelle Tan failed to lift the Lady Eagles, and La Salle again won the second set easily.
Set 3 was looking to become another straightforward affair for De La Salle, as they led 23-11 after a service error by Valdez.
But Ateneo unleashed an 8-1 scoring run to make it 24-19, as the Lady Spikers suddenly committed hitting errors. After reserve setter Mika Esperanza scored on the second touch to bring La Salle to match point, Ateneo's Ahomiro got an ace and Kim Dy twice committed hitting errors to keep the Lady Eagles alive.
Esperanza put an end to the rally, however, winning a joust against Ateneo setter Julia Morada to seal the victory for La Salle.
"'Yung pagpalit ko ng tao na 'yun, alam ko na 'yung Ateneo wala na, down na morale ng Ateneo," De Jesus said of his decision to bring in his reserves late in the third set. "At saka malayo na masyado 'yung score."
Ateneo has now lost two consecutive games -- both losses coming against La Salle -- to drop to 5-3 this season.
Valdez, the league's leading scorer, finished with 10 points and continued to struggle against the Lady Spikers. Ahomiro finished with six points.
La Salle, meanwhile, moved to 8-0 and still has not dropped a set in Season 76.