UAAP: Alessandrini, UST hand undermanned UP its first loss

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2019 04:27 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2019 04:59 PM

UAAP: Alessandrini, UST hand undermanned UP its first loss 1
Milena Alessandrini attacks the defense of UP. Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) University of Santo Tomas (UST) leaned on strong performances from its three ace spikers to down University of the Philippines (UP) in four sets, in a marquee match-up in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament.

In front of a huge crowd at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan on Sunday, UST secured a 21-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-20 triumph to hand UP its first loss of the tournament. 

Reigning Rookie of the Year Milena Alessandrini, star freshman Eya Laure, and veteran Sisi Rondina took turns in taking charge for the Golden Tigresses as they bounced back from a loss to Ateneo de Manila University last week.

UST improved to 2-1, while UP dropped to the same record. The two squads -- two of the preseason favorites -- currently sit at joint second.

"It was anybody's game, until the last moment na kumukuha kami ng puntos, at doon mo masasabi na panalo ka na," said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes. "Sa una, nangangapa kami."

Alessandrini scored 22 points on 19 kills and 3 blocks, while also contributing 15 digs and 10 receptions. Laure had 18 points, while Rondina tallied 17 points on 15 kills and two aces.

The Lady Maroons were undermanned in the game, as veteran setter Ayel Estrañero was out due to food poisoning. In her place, rookie Marianne Sotomil started and gave a good account of herself, especially in the first set where UP pulled away from a tight 19-all count by winning six of the last eight points.

UST returned the favor in the second frame, however. After an error by the Golden Tigresses knotted the count at 22, they displayed their poise by winning the last 3 points of the set. UP committed an error that gave UST a 23-22 lead, before Janine Balcorta put the Tigresses at set point. Rondina then came through with a clutch crosscourt kill for the win that tied the match at one set a piece.

Rondina came alive in the third set, scoring back-to-back hits that gave UST a 9-5 advantage. Her teammates followed her lead, with Alessandrini and Laure anchoring a 12-2 outburst that broke the frame open, 21-8. Another kill by Laure made it 22-10, before the Lady Maroons mounted a last-ditch comeback attempt.

UP's net defense -- highlighted by Aeishalaine Gannaban's two straight blocks on Laure -- allowed them to come to within seven points, 22-15. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for the Lady Maroons, and Laure fired the kills down the stretch to give UST a 2-1 lead. The Golden Tigresses tallied a whopping 16 attack points in the frame.

"Noong nalaman na rin namin na medyo malayo-layo, medyo nag-relax din kami," Laure admitted. "Nag-huddle lang kami sa gitna tapos nag-compose, sabay-sabay, para mag-usap kung ano kailangan namin gawin para makuha yung third set."

With their backs against the wall, UP managed to keep in step with the Tigresses in the fourth frame. They were down by just two points, 16-18, when veteran Justine Dorog was subbed out and given treatment for what appeared to be a hurt left knee on the sidelines.

UST pulled away from there, with Alessandrini sealing the deal with a block on Tots Carlos.

The Golden Tigresses had a 51-42 lead on attacks, a slim 11-10 lead on blocks, and an 8-3 lead on service aces.

Carlos finished with 20 points, while Isa Molde had 13 points and 14 digs. Dorog scored 10 points before getting subbed out.

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