UP stuns FEU to shake up Final Four race
MANILA, Philippines – The University of the Philippines (UP) dealt a huge blow to the Far Eastern University’s (FEU) hopes of making it to the Final Four of the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball tournament after the Lady Maroons defeated the Lady Tamaraws in their second round match Sunday at the Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Maroons won for the first time since January 11 and snapped a five-game winning streak by stunning the Lady Tamaraws in four sets, 26-24, 25-16, 16-25, and 25-19.
It was UP’s only second victory of the season, while FEU lost for the seventh time to drop their record to 6-7.
The loss could not have come at a worse time for the Lady Tamaraws, who are fighting for the last spot in the Final Four along with the Adamson Lady Falcons.
For the Lady Maroons, meanwhile, it was a huge morale-booster for a team that has shown flashes of potential all throughout the season.
“’Yun nga ang laging sinasabi sa amin ni Coach (Gerry Yee),” said UP’s Kathy Bersola, who terrorized the FEU attackers at the net and registered six blocks. “Today, we finally believed it, and we showed it on the court.”
The Lady Maroons were down by five points, 12-17, in Set 1 when FEU’s floor defense began to show cracks. Sheeka Espinosa scored when the Lady Tams did not get a free ball, then Alyssa Layug got an ace again due to the miscommunication of FEU.
Those two points were part of a 9-1 scoring run that allowed the Lady Maroons to take a 21-18 lead. UP would reach set point, 24-22, when Toni Basas committed a service error, but FEU rookie Bernadeth Pons had back-to-back-kills to tie the game.
Unfortunately for FEU, Pons hit the tape of the net in their next play, and Sheeka Espinosa powered a spike through their blockers to seal the set.
Playing without any pressure, the Lady Maroons cruised to take the second set, with Bersola beginning to assert her presence at the net while skipper Angeli Araneta scored timely hits to stop FEU’s brief scoring rallies.
Pons came alive in the third set, scoring nine attack points all by herself, and FEU cleaned up their act as they committed only two unforced errors in the frame. That allowed them to comfortably take Set 3, 25-16, and force an extension.
FEU looked to be in control in Set 4, leading 10-8 with Pons and Kyla Atienza both scoring. But the Lady Maroons reasserted themselves, with Bersola and Araneta taking turns on attack, and FEU again started committing unforced errors that saw them go down by four, 12-16.
Pons tried to rally the Lady Tamaraws in the latter part of the set again, but she got little help from her teammates.
It did not help that the FEU was missing middle blocker Remy Palma, who aggravated a knee injury and did not suit up.
Four players scored in double digits for the Lady Maroons, led by Bersola with 20 points. Araneta added 15, Espinosa had 13, and Monica Ortiz finished with 12. As a team, UP also registered nine block points.
UP libero Princess Gaiser had 19 digs and anchored the Lady Maroons’ reception and floor defense, which was exceptional for most of the game.
Pons was the only Lady Tamaraw in double-figures, with 22 points.