MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) National University (NU) made a statement early in the UAAP Season 82 women's volleyball tournament, as they stunned University of Santo Tomas (UST) in a thrilling five-set encounter at the Mall of Asia on Wednesday.
Several heroes stepped up for the Lady Bulldogs in a 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13 triumph.
The young NU squad twice recovered from a one-set deficit, before holding off UST's last-ditch rally in the fifth set to claim an impressive victory. Sophomore middle blocker Ivy Lacsina ended the marathon match with a hit from the middle.
It was Congolese spiker Margot Mutshima who shone brightest for NU, however, as she put up 23 points on 20 kills and 3 aces in her UAAP debut. Lacsina finished with 19 points, including 7 blocks, while comebacking middle blocker Risa Sato scored 7 of her 17 points on blocks too.
"Noong fourth set lang kami nakapag-connect with each other," noted NU head coach Norman Miguel. "Nakuha namin 'yung rhythm after manalo kami ng fourth set."
"First set hanggang third set, talagang wild," he added.
It was indeed a nerve-wracking game where neither team could gain control. UST went up, 2-1, after pouncing on the Lady Bulldogs' errors in the third set. Mutshima committed a hitting error that gifted the Tigresses with the winning point, their ninth miscue of the frame.
The Lady Bulldogs recovered in the fourth set, getting off to an 8-4 start before Eya Laure sparked a run that again made it a close game. Imee Hernandez's ace off NU libero Jennifer Nierva made it 13-10 in favor of the Tigresses. But it was NU that ended the set strong. They took a 20-17 lead off a Lacsina hit, before UST came to within two points, 20-22, thanks to Laure.
Sato fired a quick hit to give NU more separation, and Lacsina blocked Caitlyn Viray and Laure in succession to send the match to a decider. The Lady Bulldogs registered six blocks in the frame.
NU appeared headed for a comfortable win in the fifth frame as they raced to a 6-1 lead, but their errors along with the efforts of Eya and EJ Laure kept UST in the game. An ace by reserve Blove Barbon made it a one-point game, 8-9.
A net touch by UST and a clutch ace by Bingle Laudicho put NU ahead by 3, 12-9, and they reached match point, 14-11, off a Mutshima cross court attack. THe Tigresses last threatened when Hernandez rejected Lacsina at the net, 14-13, but the sophomore bounced back with a vengeance as she buried her final hit of the game for the win.
"May kaba pa din po, kasi gina-guide pa din namin 'yung mga bata na pumapasok sa loob," said Lacsina, who is playing as a middle blocker this year after playing in the wings as a rookie. "Pero lagi naman po sinasabi ng coaches namin na enjoy lang."
UST tallied a whopping 64 attacks in the game to NU's 50, but the Lady Bulldogs had a 16-10 advantage in aces, and an 8-5 lead in blocks. The Tigresses also committed more unforced errors, 33-27.
Eya Laure, the reigning Rookie of the Year, had a team-high 20 points built on 19 kills, while older sister EJ had 17 points, 20 digs, and 12 receptions in her first UAAP game since Season 79. Hernandez had 18 points, including 6 blocks.
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