MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas (UST) overcame its biggest test in the UAAP Season 77 beach volleyball tournament as the Tigresses' pair of Cherry Rondina and Rica Rivera nipped Adamson University's Amanda Villanueva to punch an outright Finals berth.
Rondina and Rivera defeated Villanueva and Cortel, 21-13, 17-21, and 16-14, Sunday at the UE Caloocan sand court.
The defending champion Lady Falcons were on the cusp of forcing a Final Four after reaching match point, 14-13, when Rondina took charge.
With her timely, well-placed shots at the net, Rondina delivered as UST scored the last three points to clinch the match.
By sweeping the seven-game elimination, the Tigresses marched to the title round for the fourth straight season armed with a thrice-to-beat incentive.
"Kahit bumaba ang laro namin, naniwala pa rin kami sa isa't isa dahil alam namin na kaya namin ang kalaban," said Rondina. "Binantayan namin sa Adamson 'yung long ball at 'yung baon nila sa bola."
Meanwhile, De La Salle University clinched a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semi-finals as Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo crushed Michelle Morente and Jhoana Maraguinot of Ateneo de Manila University, 21-14, 21-13.
The Lady Spikers, still looking for their first-ever title since the event started in 2007, wound up in second place with a 6-1 card.
Far Eastern University's (FEU) Bernadette Pons and Charm Simborio downed University of the Philippines (UP), 21-17, 21-15, while National University's (NU) Jaja Santiago and Fatima General defeated University of the East, 21-15, 21-11, to round up the eliminations.
FEU clinched the No. 3 seed in the semi-finals by virtue of a superior quotient over Adamson and NU.
The Lady Falcons beat the Lady Bulldogs, 21-12, 21-18, later in a playoff for the remaining semi-finals berth.
In the men's division, reigning champions NU foiled UST's bid for an outright passage to the Finals as Edwin Tolentino and Josephnry Tipay turned back Mark Alfafara and Kris Roy Guzman, 21-18, 21-17.
Adamson then forged a three-way tie in first place at 6-1 with a 21-14, 21-19 victory over UP.
Despite the loss, the Growling Tigers still bagged the No. 1 seed and the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four by virtue of a higher quotient than the Falcons and the Bulldogs, who will slug it out for the remaining semi-finals incentive.
FEU booked the last Final Four ticket with a 21-15, 21-11 win over Ateneo.