MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Defending champion De La Salle University is still undefeated in the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament, but only after weathering a tough challenge from Far Eastern University (FEU).
The Lady Spikers squandered a two-set lead, but regained their form in the final set to claim a 25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 23-25, 15-7 triumph over the Lady Tamaraws on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The hard-earned victory gave La Salle a 3-0 record in the tournament, giving them a share of the top spot along with idle National University.
Meanwhile, the Lady Tamaraws (1-2) succumbed to a second consecutive defeat, after bowing to Adamson University in five sets last Saturday. All of FEU's three matches in Season 80 have gone the distance.
"Hindi namin ma-minimize 'yung errors (in Sets 3 and 4)," explained La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus after the game. "Iba 'yung pinakita ng FEU noong third and fourth set."
Set 1 served as a preview of sorts as to how the match would play out. La Salle raced to a quick lead, even leading by 10 points, 21-11. However, the Lady Tamaraws clawed their way back behind skipper Bernadeth Pons, and came as close as two points late, 24-22. The Lady Spikers would survive, however, after FEU committed an unforced error.
La Salle won comfortably in the second set, and were one point away from wrapping up the victory as they took a 24-22 lead in Set 3 off a quick hit by team captain Majoy Baron.
But the Lady Tamaraws recovered, thanks to their net defense. After Kianna Dy sent a spike way long, FEU's Jeanette Villareal came up with kill blocks on Dy and Aduke Ogunsanya on back-to-back possessions. An offspeed hit from Pons allowed FEU to extend the match.
"Yung third set, 'yun ang sakit namin eh," admitted De Jesus. "Sabi ko nga, 'yung 24 points, napakadaling kunin. Pero 'yung one point, napakahirap. Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila 'yun."
Now with momentum on their side, FEU seized control in the fourth frame and led by as much as six points, 14-8. The Lady Spikers began working their way back, thanks in part to the Lady Tamaraws' errors. FEU setter Gel Cayuna committed a crossing violation that knotted the frame at 23.
Unfortunately for La Salle, Baron's serve to start the next rally went straight to the net, and Heather Guino-o fired up an ace to send the match to a decider.
The Lady Tamaraws managed to stay toe-to-toe with the Lady Spikers in the early goings of the fifth set, even taking a brief 5-4 lead off another ace by Guino-o. However, her next serve went long, and that triggered a 5-0 DLSU run that gave the Lady Spikers the lead for good.
La Salle won nine of the next 10 points, with Dy serving up an ace while Ogunsanya hammered quick hits from the middle.
In the end, FEU succumbed to its own miscues. Two of La Salle's final three points came from the Lady Tamaraws' errors, as Carly Hernandez – their service specialist – sent her serve long, and Pons committed an attack error after a poor set from Kyle Negrito.
Desiree Cheng finished off a combination play in the final rally to help La Salle wrap up the match in two hours and 21 minutes.
"Sinasabi lang namin na dapat maging composed kami," Cheng said of her message to her teammates in the fifth set. "Dapat buo kami, buo 'yung loob namin na tatapusin namin 'yung game, na kami ang mananalo."
Dy finished with 18 points, and Baron had 16 for the Lady Spikers. Libero Dawn Macandili was superb as usual, tallying 13 excellent receptions and 34 digs – including a remarkable recovery in the fifth set that ended up with a point in La Salle's favor.
Pons had 21 points and 22 digs for FEU, and Cel Domingo contributed 12 points. The Lady Tamaraws actually had more kills, 50-48, and blocks, 10-9, while having the same number of aces at nine apiece.
But FEU also gifted La Salle with a whopping 46 points off their own errors. They had a combined 25 unforced errors in the first two sets, cleaned up their act in the third and fourth frames, but had seven more in the final set that doomed their comeback attempt.
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