De La Salle's Mika Reyes, Abi Marano and Ara Galang in jubilation after scoring against Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – (UPDATED) Defending champions De La Salle moved to within a game of winning a fourth consecutive UAAP women’s volleyball tiara after a vengeful four-set victory over archrivals Ateneo in Game 2 of the Season 76 Finals.
Bristling from a four-set loss in Game 1 that rendered the finals a virtual best-of-three series, the Lady Spikers got their revenge with a 25-14, 25-20, 19-25 and 26-24 victory Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ara Galang led the way for De La Salle with 17 points on 16 attacks in the match that lasted nearly two hours in front of a 17,000-strong crowd – the largest so far this season.
“Ang mindset namin ay revenge. ‘Yun lang naman ang pinaghuhugutan namin eh,” said Galang, who had a subpar game in La Salle’s loss in Game 1 last Wednesday. “Natalo na kami. Ayaw naming maulit at hindi kami magpapaagaw ng korona.”
La Salle came into the finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage after sweeping the eliminations, but were shocked by the Lady Eagles in Game 1 as they showed signs of rust and complacency after an 18-day break.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Lady Spikers, who saw their 30-game winning streak snapped by an Ateneo team that was still rebuilding after losing five core players.
They showed flashes of dominance by winning the first two sets, but relaxed somewhat in the third as Ateneo extended the match. But in the fourth set, it was the battle-tested La Salle who proved to be the more composed team, as they scored their last two points off Ateneo errors.
“Nakabalik na kami from the 18 days na pahinga namin, so wala na kaming reason para mawala ulit ang anumang nawala sa amin noong buong eliminations,” said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus, who is seeking his ninth crown with the Lady Spikers.
La Salle just needs to win another game to claim their fourth straight women’s volleyball title, and De Jesus is angling for an immediate end to the series on Wednesday to prevent Ateneo from regaining the momentum.
“Feeling ko, mas kailangan pa naming mag-pursige dahil kailangan kapitan na namin ito,” said De Jesus.
The Lady Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the opening set, but the Lady Spikers responded with four straight points to claim a 4-3 advantage. Galang then found her rhythm, which allowed La Salle to take the first set, 25-14.
The Lady Spikers remained in control early in the second frame, but Ateneo fought back to keep it close, 12-10.
La Salle was already pulling away when several miscues by the Taft-based belles allowed the Lady Eagles to pull within 5 points, 20-15. But La Salle eventually regained its bearings to bag the second set, 25-20.
Ateneo regained the momentum when it took an 11-7 lead in the third set. DLSU's Abi Marano and company tied the scores at 11-all, but Alyssa Valdez and Dennise Lazaro managed to give the Lady Eagles a 17-13 edge. The Lady Eagles were back in the game after taking the third set, 25-19.
It was point-for-point for both squads in the fourth set until Marano and Mika Reyes broke through Ateneo’s defense for La Salle’s 12-9 lead. After the Eagles sliced the lead to 11-13, the Lady Spikers surged ahead 21-16.
La Salle reached match point at 24-21, but Cyd Demecillo committed a service error that paved the way for an Ateneo comeback. Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez then came alive to tie the set at 24-all.
But Valdez – named UAAP MVP before the start of the game – committed a crucial service error, and rookie Kassandra Gequillana handed the game to the Lady Spikers with an error on the next play.
Mika Reyes added 14 points for La Salle, while skipper Abi Marano scored 11 as both players bounced back from poor performances in Game 1.
Meanwhile, Ateneo’s Game 1 hero, rookie Michelle Morente, came crashing back to earth with a four-point performance and sat out the fourth set.
Valdez led the way for the Lady Eagles with 15 points, while Ella de Jesus and Amy Ahomiro each added nine points.