NU celebrates after stopping an attack from Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs withstood a gallant challenge from the Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles to win their seventh straight match in the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball tournament Sunday at the Arena in San Juan.
The second-running Lady Bulldogs bucked a hiccup in the third set and avoided a meltdown in the fourth to hack out a 25-17, 25-17, 23-25, and 25-19 victory.
In the first two sets, it was the Lady Eagles who raced off to quick starts, leading 7-5 in Set 1 and 8-5 in Set 2.
But in both instances, the Lady Bulldogs put together a back-breaking run after the first technical timeout, taking huge leads that Ateneo could not recover from.
In the opening set, NU unleashed an 12-2 run to turn a 5-7 deficit into a huge 17-9 lead. Setter Ivy Perez was instrumental in the run, getting one service ace and setting up skipper DinDin Santiago and Mina Aganon for kills.
Miscues by NU allowed Ateneo to make it a six point game, 16-22, but the lead proved to be too much to overcome and Santiago’s attack from the middle sealed the first set in NU’s favor.
In the second set, NU again took control after the first technical timeout, this time with a 13-2 run that turned a 5-8 deficit into an 18-10 lead. The Lady Eagles did not help their cause, as they committed several hitting errors and were frustrated by NU’s net defense.
Ateneo showed more fight in the third set, overcoming a three-point lead, 17-20, and giving NU a taste of its own medicine with a 5-0 blast that allowed them to take a 22-20 lead. Alyssa Valdez and Amy Ahomiro were instrumental in the run, twice blocking the NU attackers to key the Ateneo rally.
NU tied the set at 23-all after a mishit by Ahomiro, but she quickly made up for her error by powering a spike through the NU blockers in their next play, then sealing the set with a service ace.
Ateneo’s attempt to extend the match to a do-or-die fifth set took a hit early in Set 4 when libero DenDen Lazaro had to be taken out of the game due to an apparent wrist injury, with the set tied at 2-2.
Lazaro’s exit seemingly took the winds out of Ateneo’s sails, and NU took an 11-8 lead as the Lady Eagles’ floor coverage suffered. NU was leading 16-13 when Lazaro returned to the game, her wrist heavily taped.
Their libero’s returned briefly sparked Ateneo, as they tied the set at 17-all with Valdez’s serves testing NU’s reception. The Lady Bulldogs quickly regained control, however, as Pablo crushed an attack through the Ateneo blockers, which touched off a 5-1 run that made it 22-18.
Ateneo would score only once more from that point as NU wrapped up the game in one hour and 48 minutes.
Setter Perez was named the Player of the Game after finishing with 13 points and 20 excellent sets. Three other players scored in double digits for NU, with Pablo scoring 14 and Aganon and Santiago each firing 13 points.
Valdez had 16 points for Ateneo while Ahomiro added 15 points, but it was not enough as the Lady Eagles lost to the Lady Bulldogs for the second time this season.
NU tallied eight offensive blocks, but their net defense was on point as the Lady Eagles only scored 37 points off attacks.
It was NU’s seventh straight win, hiking their record to 9-1 and tightening their grip on the second spot in the league standings.
Ateneo, meanwhile, dropped its fourth game in 10 assignments, but remains in the third spot ahead of the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws.