MANILA (3rd UPDATE) The De La Salle Lady Spikers continued their dominance of the UAAP volleyball scene after beating rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles to clinch a third straight championship Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In front of almost 19,000 fans, the Lady Spikers defeated the Lady Eagles in straight sets in Game 2 of the Season 75 Finals to sweep the best-of-three series.
Three players scored in double figures for the Lady Spikers as they overcame deficits in Sets 2 and 3 to win 25-23, 25-20 and 25-16.
"Ito ang fruit of labor ng mga bata, lalo na ng senior players ko na ga-graduate, si Melissa Gohing at Wensch Tiu," said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus, who won his 190th game for La Salle.
It was the eighth volleyball crown for the Lady Spikers, allowing them to tie the University of the Philippines for third-most in the UAAP.
It was also the Lady Spikers' 16th straight victory this season after they lost their opening game against the University of Sto. Tomas Tigresses.
Straight sets win
The Lady Spikers set the tone for the game right from the opening set, as they raced to a 5-1 lead after taking advantage of the Lady Eagles' lethargic play.
Errors from the Lady Spikers allowed Ateneo to take brief leads, 7-6 and 14-13, but the defending champions were able to regroup quickly.
An off-speed hit by Cyd Demecillo brought La Salle to set point, 24-18, but Ateneo came roaring back behind five consecutive points from Season 75 Best Scorer Alyssa Valdez.
The Lady Spikers were able to regroup, however, to take the first set 25-23.
In the second set, the Lady Eagles showed better reception as they raced to a 13-7 lead. After a block by Valdez allowed them to build a 17-13 advantage, La Salle reeled off seven straight points built on the sensational blocking of Mika Reyes to seize control of the contest.
With Reyes blocking Valdez twice, the Lady Eagles started committing unforced errors and La Salle took advatage, winning 25-20 after a Reyes service ace.
The Lady Eagles again took an early lead in Set 3, 13-9, but they committed several hitting errors that contributed to a 8-1 La Salle run.
The Lady Spikers dominated down the stretch, only allowing Ateneo to score two more points as they clinched the third set - and the championship.
"It was sweet because it was a three straight sets win," said Michele Gumabao, who was named Finals Most Valuable Player.
"Sinabi talaga sa amin ni coach na kaya namin manalo. Before coming into MOA [Mall of Asia] Arena, we conditioned our mind, we really believed na kaya namin mag-champion and we did," she added.
"It's a very rewarding feeling."
La Salle had several heroes in the game, starting with Reyes, who proved to be unstoppable in the middle, on her way to a game-high 16 points, including seven blocks.
Marano and sophomore Ara Galang, who were named co-MVPs prior to the game, both finished with 12 points.
"Talagang makikita mo sa bawat manlalaro ng La Salle na lalaban sila hanggang sa dulo, hanggang maabot nila ang mga pangarap nila," said an emotional Marano after the game.
Gohing, La Salle's graduating libero, was also in tears after their victory.
"I feel like every championship is a blessing," said Gohing, who has won four championships in her five years with the Lady Spikers.
Game 2 was a far quicker affair than Game 1, with the Lady Spikers going down 2 sets to zero before rallying for a five-set victory.
This time, the Lady Spikers did not give the Lady Eagles a chance as they doomed their rivals to a second consecutive Finals loss.
Valdez finished with 14 points for the Lady Eagles, but no other player scored in double figures for Ateneo.
Playing in their last games, Fille Cainglet scored eight points, Dzi Gervacio added seven markers, and Aillysse Nacachi had two points off the bench.
Gretchen Ho was scoreless, while three-time Best Setter Jem Ferrer wound up with 26 excellent sets.
But the Lady Eagles again had no answer for the remarkable blocking of the Lady Spikers, who scored 17 points off kill-blocks. Reyes alone out-blocked the entire Ateneo team, 7-4.
De Jesus, who has helmed the Lady Spikers in all of their championships, said this title was sweet because it coincided with the rise of volleyball as one of the most popular sports in the Philippines.
"Sobrang nakakatuwa kasi magkabatch kami ni (ABS-CBN Sports commentator and former UST player) Mozzy Ravena," he said.
"Isa siya sa naka-witness ng start ng volleyball, na sa UP lang naglalaro...Ngayon, maraming nanghihingi ng ticket, wala akong maibigay," De Jesus said.