Ateneo's Alyssa Valdez (2) celebrates after scoring a point against UST. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – (UPDATED) The Ateneo Lady Eagles survived a nervy third set to eliminate the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses from Final Four contention in the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball tournament Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan.
After relatively comfortable wins in the first two sets, Ateneo had a more difficult time in the third set but eventually closed the game out, 25-18, 25-21, and 25-23, to win their ninth game of the season.
In the back-and-forth third set, UST took the lead for the last time, 23-22, following a service ace from back-up setter Alex Cabanos. That prompted Ateneo to call a timeout, after which skipper Alyssa Valdez simply took over.
A superb kill by Valdez tied the set at 23-all, then Mae Tajima took advantage of an over-reception by UST to put the Lady Eagles at match point. Valdez then put an end to the match by blocking a UST attack to completely slam the door on the Tigresses’ Final Four hopes.
“Na-rattle lang kami (in the third set),” rookie Michelle Morente said after the game. “May miscommunication sa loob ng court, na hindi namin alam kung sino ang kukuha ng bola. Pero bumawi na lang kami.”
Valdez finished with 17 points on 13 attacks, three blocks and an ace, while Morente was named the Player of the Game after tallying 14 points on 10 attacks, three aces and one block.
Ateneo took control of the opening set after the first technical timeout, when they turned a 7-9 deficit into a 17-11 lead on the strength of Valdez and Morente’s services. UST did not help its cause as the Tigresses committed hitting and serving errors to give Ateneo free points.
The Lady Eagles were comfortably ahead in the second set, 24-17, but surrendered four straight points to UST thanks to hitting errors by Valdez and Amy Ahomiro. Valdez made up for her errors by powering a spike through the UST blockers to give her team a two-set lead.
In the third set, it was UST who seized control first, 5-3, but it soon turned into a nip-and-tuck affair as the two squads exchanged brief runs. It was Ateneo, however, that had the stronger finishing kick.
The loss was UST’s ninth of the season against only four victories. It ensured that they will miss the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
Ateneo, meanwhile, has a firm grip on the third spot of the rankings, just behind unbeaten La Salle and second-running National University.
Far Eastern University and Adamson University, tied in the league standings with identical 6-7 records, are contesting the last spot in the Final Four.