MANILA, Philippines - University of Santo Tomas out-steadied Ateneo in a see-sawing fourth set duel, completing its fightback from an opening set setback with a 16-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 victory in the opener of their best-of-three title showdown in the Shakey's V-League Presented by Smart at the packed Arena in San Juan last night.
Maruja Banaticla unleashed a vicious spike off top blocker Lithawat Kesinee to shatter a 23-all count in the fourth then the Tigresses roared to victory on an Ateneo violation that ended the thrilling 1:43-hour contest and moved the former six-time champions within a win of completing their grand comeback from a two-year absence.
UST bounced back strong from a first-set loss, outlasting Ateneo in the next sets before overcoming a 20-22 deficit in the fourth by winning five of the last six points on a combination of reception and power plays to finally end the Lady Eagles winning streak at 10.
"We were tight on the first set so we couldn't adjust to their blocks, but we regrouped well in the next three," said UST coach Odjie Mamon.
The Tigresses go for the clincher tomorrow.
Earlier, San Sebastian College blew a two-set lead then came back strong in a marathon fourth-set setback to hack out a 25-14, 25-23, 16-25, 32-34, 15-9 victory over University of Perpetual Help in their own series for third.
Judy Caballejo topscored for UST with 15 hits while Maruja Banaticla, Mary Jean Balse and Thai Utaiwan Kaensing added 14, 11 and nine points, respectively.
The gritty Tigresses also drew inspiration from Maika Ortiz, who churned out a 13-hit output after struggling in their semis duel with San Sebastian.
"I told Maika to go all-out. She was non-existent in our last game, we were so dependent on our corner attacks so she was always left open," added Mamon.