MANILA, Philippines – Jasmin Nabor pounced on Ateneo de Manila University's sloppy receiving in the fifth set as National University (NU) outlasted the Lady Eagles in a thriller to improve to 2-0 in the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball tournament.
In front of a noisy crowd at the FilOil Flying V Centre on Wednesday, the Lady Bulldogs squandered a two-set lead but regained their bearings in time to claim a 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 12-25, 15-7 victory.
NU now holds the solo lead in the women's division with their 2-0 slate, while Ateneo drops to 0-2 in the tournament.
It is highly unfamiliar territory for the Lady Eagles, as it is their worst start under the Tai Bundit era.
"They are walking the talk," NU coach Babes Castillo said of his players. "Si Jaja (Santiago) said na this season, ipaglalaban ko 'to, and I see that in training."
The Lady Bulldogs looked to be on their way to a quick win as they surged to a two-set lead, with Ateneo once again unable to set up their plays as they could not come up with good first balls for setter Deanna Wong.
But the Katipunan volleybelles regrouped in the third frame, shoring up their reception to allow more plays for skipper Maddie Madayag. Jhoana Maraguinot also came alive, firing up six points in Set 3. The Lady Bulldogs did not help their cause as they committed seven service errors in the frame.
Momentum was firmly on Ateneo's side in the fourth frame, as they blew the set open with an 8-0 blast that was helped by a series of errors by the NU side. The Lady Eagles won comfortably, torching NU with four aces in the frame and being more active in defense, while the Lady Bulldogs coughed up nine free points.
The Lady Bulldogs, however, proved to be the tougher team down the stretch. After exchanging points with the Lady Eagles in the first half of the deciding set, NU buckled down to work and frustrated their foes.
A service error by Madayag was the beginning of the end for the Lady Eagles, as that gave NU an 8-6 lead. Ateneo scored only one more point the rest of the way, and they committed four unforced errors to help the Lady Bulldogs pull away.
"Pagod na rin, at saka communication, nagkulang," said Castillo. "So pinaalala ko 'yung paano kami nag-start, which is three things."
"No. 1, natutunan namin from the first game is, we really need to get our deserved respect through hard work. Bawat puntos kailangan talaga paghirapan. No. 2 whistle to whistle. From whistle to whistle 100 precent lang, kung ano man ang mangyari, whatever opponent makes a point or you make a point, as long as you give out your hundred percent panalo tayo," he added.
"Then third, communication. Medyo noong huli nahihirapan si Jaja. Jasmin had a hard time when she’s giving out instructions walang nagre-respond back, siguro ‘yung crowd or ‘yung tension. Those are the three things."
Nabor steered NU to the win from the service line, as she served up three straight aces against a suddenly flat-footed Ateneo side.
Santiago torched Ateneo for 26 points on 20 kills, four blocks, and two aces, while Nabor finished with 11 points – seven of them from the line – to add to her 29 excellent sets.
This is the third straight time that NU had beaten Ateneo dating back to Season 79.
Maraguinot led the Lady Eagles with 16 points, but was partly responsible for their awful reception in the latter part of the final frame. Kat Tolentino added 12 points, and Ponggay Gaston had a career-high 10 points after subbing in for the ineffective Jules Samonte. Dani Ravena, playing major minutes for the first time, had nine digs and 10 receptions before also succumbing to pressure in the final stretch.
The Lady Eagles, who gave up 20 aces to Far Eastern University on Sunday, allowed 13 from NU this time around. However, they scored 14 aces of their own, and got 37 free points off the Lady Bulldogs' errors.
Fortunately for NU, their offense made up for their error-prone ways as they had 45 attack points to only 37 for the Lady Eagles.
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