La Salle's Aby Marano dictates a play against Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – La Salle captain Abigail Maraño looked subdued after the Lady Spikers blew a chance to clinch a fourth consecutive UAAP women’s volleyball title, but vowed that she and her team will bounce back in the final game of the season on Saturday.
In a thrilling Game 3, La Salle rallied from a 0-2 set deficit and were at championship point, 15-14, in the fifth set, only to see Ateneo reel off three consecutive points – the last off an error from Lady Spiker Kim Fajardo – and force a winner-takes-all game for the crown.
Ateneo won, 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, and 17-15 in a game that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours in front of an 18,000-strong crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Maraño, who scored eight points in the loss, remained defiant even as she promised that the Lady Spikers will do their best to win on Saturday.
“I think we need to think of more elements on how to win this time,” she said immediately after the game. “Babawi kami.”
Maraño said La Salle’s fighting heart will be the key in the do-or-die game, especially as it is the first time all season long that the Lady Spikers will be playing with their backs against the wall. In contrast, Ateneo will be playing in a do-or-die game for a stunning fifth time.
“Puso pa, kasi hindi naman lahat pabor sa amin,” said Maraño. “Kailangan namin trabahuhin kung ano lang ang kaya naming gawin, and manalo kami on Saturday.”
Third-year star Ara Galang, who exploded for 28 points for La Salle, stressed that the Lady Spikers were not out just yet.
“Hindi pa naman tapos ‘yung game,” Galang told ABS-CBNnews.com after the Lady Spikers exited their locker room. “May isang game pa. Doon na lang namin ibubuhos ‘yung lahat.”
“(Kailang namin) i-improve lang ‘yung character ng bawat isa, improve namin ‘yung tiwala at self-confidence,” she added.
La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus lamented his players’ sluggish start to the game, which allowed Ateneo to race to a two-set lead, and stressed that they cannot afford to have another poor start in Game 4.
“Medyo malamig nung umpisa, tsaka nawalan din ng focus ‘yung mga bata ng first and second set,” he said. “Nakabalik naman noong third set and fourth set, pero pag five sets kasi, it’s a matter of breaks. Ayun eh, mas kinapitan ang Ateneo.”
“Meron pa namang Saturday game, so doon na lang talaga. Do or die na talaga ‘yun. Hindi na pwedeng ganoon ang start namin,” he said.
De Jesus could only shake his head at the violation that was called on Fajardo in the final play, which allowed Ateneo to wrap up the victory.
“Talagang ganoon,” he said. “Dumarating sa bawat situation na dumarating ‘yung ganyan eh, so kailangan tanggapin.”
La Salle was within one game of winning the title after beating Ateneo last Saturday, but came out slow and received poorly in the first two sets. Although they recovered in sets three and four, it was Ateneo who came up with the biggest plays in the final frame. -- With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News.