MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) In a stunning upset, an undermanned University of Santo Tomas (UST) squad pulled off a straight sets victory over defending champion De La Salle University on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Playing without injured open spiker Milena Alessandrini, the Golden Tigresses hacked out a 25-20, 25-22, 25-17 triumph over the Lady Spikers -- the first time since Season 78 that they had beaten La Salle.
Moreover, this marks the first time that La Salle has lost back-to-back games since the finals of Season 77, when they bowed to Ateneo de Manila University. The Lady Spikers were coming off a five-set defeat to University of the Philippines (UP) last Saturday.
This is also the first time that the Lady Spikers had lost in straight sets since a Season 79 setback to UP.
"Big win," said UST coach Kungfu Reyes. "Dedicated ang laban para kay Amiga (Alessandrini)."
"Nawala si Milena, pero we have 13 strong women na haharap sa kung sino man ang magiging kalaban," he stressed. "Luckily, nag-deliver naman halos lahat ng ginamit."
Sisi Rondina was superb, tallying 19 points on 17 kills and 2 blocks, while Eya Laure fired up 15 points on 13 kills. The Golden Tigresses overwhelmed the Lady Spikers on offense, coming up with 41 attack points.
It was a tremendous performance for the Tigresses, who may have to play without Alessandrini for the rest of the season after the Fil-Italian tore the ACL in her left knee in their previous game.
It was Rondina who sparked their first set win, as the veteran repeatedly outsmarted the La Salle blockers.
In the second set, the Lady Spikers shot themselves in the foot. A hit by Jolina dela Cruz knotted the count at 22, but they proceeded to commit three straight errors from there: Julia Ipac hit the net, Erika Santos sent her attack out, and Michelle Cobb committed a setting error.
Looking to force an extension, the Lady Spikers raced to a 3-0 lead in Set 3, and led, 8-7, off a UST error. The defending champs tied it at 12, after Aduke Ogunsanya rejected Rica Rivera, and dela Cruz fired a down-the-line hit.
But it was all UST from there. The Golden Tigresses reeled off six straight points -- two courtesy of Laure -- to pull away, 18-12. A service error by MaFe Galanza stopped the bleeding for La Salle, but UST was quick to come back, with Laure and Rondina taking turns to overpower the Lady Spikers' defense.
"Nakaka-impress," Reyes said of his players' performance. "Na-impress ako."
The Tigresses had just 18 unforced errors in the game, and the rookie Galanza outplayed Cobb as she tallied 21 excellent sets to 14 for the La Salle setter.
No La Salle player reached double-digits: dela Cruz, Ipac, and Ogunsanya each contributed 8 markers. But as a team, they tallied just 28 kills.
The result shook up the league standings, as Ateneo and UP now share the top spot. La Salle drops to a three-way tie for third place with UST and Far Eastern University, with all three teams toting 3-2 win-loss record.
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