MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles ended rival De La Salle Lady Spikers' perfect season after a four-set victory in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 74 women's volleyball finals Wednesday afternoon at The Arena in San Juan.
La Salle came into the finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage after a 14-game sweep of the elimination round, but the Lady Eagles outplayed them through four sets, 23-25, 28-26, 25-23 and 25-17.
|The Ateneo Lady Eagles react after winning Game 1 against the De La Salle Lady Archers in UAAP season 74 womens volleyball finals.
Ateneo’s victory ended their nine-game losing streak to La Salle. It also ended the Lady Spikers’ 25-game winning streak dating back to January 8, 2011 and their 14-game winning streak in Season 74.
"Dahil nanalo kami this game, mabi-build up 'yung confidence namin," said Ateneo’s rookie star Alyssa Valdez after the game.
La Salle showed their championship poise in the first set as they raced to an early lead, while the Lady Eagles seemed nervous while making their first ever Finals appearance.
The Lady Spikers led 23-17 before a late rally by Ateneo, behind team captain Fille Cainglet and veteran Ailysse Nacachi. Attacking errors from La Salle allowed the Lady Eagles to come as close as 23-24, but Michelle Gumabao won the set for the Lady Spikers with a cross-court attack.
In an up-and-down second set, the Lady Spikers built leads of 13-9 and 22-19, only to see the Lady Eagles rally to tie the game.
Ateneo head coach Roger Gorayeb took a big risk by sending in 6-foot-2 freshman Mary Mae Tajima for defensive purposes. His gamble paid off as La Salle's attacks from the middle stalled, and Cainglet gave Ateneo the lead, 24-23.
The two teams then traded points, before Gretchen Ho scored off a runner to tie the game at 26-all for the final time in the set. Cainglet then scored the final two points for Ateneo, allowing them to equalize.
The third set saw the Lady Spikers take an early lead anew, and they were ahead 17-13 before Ateneo rallied to tie the game, 21-all, off a kill from Valdez.
But Dzi Gervacio stepped up for the Lady Eagles, scoring the set point off the La Salle blockers.
The Lady Eagles carried that momentum all the way into the fourth set, wherein they posted a 16-8 lead before an Abigail Maraño-led rally cut the lead to four points, 12-16.
The deficit was too large for the Lady Spikers to overcome, however, and Cainglet and Gervacio conspired to win the match for the Lady Eagles.
Valdez was named player of the game after tallying a game-high 24 points on 19 attacks, one block and four serves. Cainglet finished with 19 points.
Maraño led La Salle with 17 markers, while Gumabao had 14 points.
With Ateneo's victory, the Finals now become a best-of-three affair, with both teams needing to win twice to claim the crown.
La Salle is gunning for their second straight volleyball championship and seventh overall, while Ateneo is seeking their first-ever championship in volleyball.