MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED)—Statement sent.
De La Salle University overpowered archrival Ateneo de Manila in four sets, for a winning start to its campaign in the UAAP Season 82 women's volleyball tournament, Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Every Lady Spiker got her turn in the spotlight in their 25-17, 17-25, 25-17, 25-15 triumph over the Lady Eagles, extending their winning streak over their rivals to seven games.
It was a strong statement by the Lady Spikers, who saw their streak of 10 straight finals appearances end last season wherein they settled for the bronze, while the Lady Eagles went on to win the crown. But behind the impressive performances of wing spikers Jolina dela Cruz and Tin Tiamzon, the Lady Spikers recovered from a sluggish second set and overcame an error-strewn performance for a superb start to the year.
"Very crucial na game for us," said La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus. "Sa mga ganitong first game, may tinatawag na first game jitters. Pero kita natin na kahit bata ang mga players namin, nakikita mo na nawawala, pero nakakabalik din."
"Hindi madali ang pinagdaanan namin, pero sabi ko, tiwala lang," he added.
The teams split the first two sets, with La Salle limiting Ateneo to just 7 kills in the opening frame. Ateneo found its groove in the second, putting up 11 attack points while making the most of the Lady Spikers' 8 unforced errors. The Lady Eagles ended the second set on a 13-1 run to equalize.
The third set was shaping up to be a nip-and-tuck affair, with La Salle taking a slim 16-15 lead off a block by Aduke Ogunsanya on Jhoana Maraguinot. That was all that La Salle needed to gain momentum, as it dominated the frame after the second technical timeout. Jolina dela Cruz and Leila Cruz took turns in scoring, and they reached set point by turning back Ateneo rookie Faith Nisperos. An error by Ateneo's reserve setter, Jamie Lavitoria, gifted La Salle with the win and the 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was all La Salle. After Ateneo took an early 4-2 lead, de Jesus sued for time to set his players straight, and it was a rout from there. Their lead grew to 20-8, as Ateneo's service reception and floor defense fell apart.
Some late errors by La Salle helped Ateneo trim the deficit, but the defending champions had dug too deep of a hole for themselves. Leila Cruz scored the match winner on a down-the-line hit that was initially called out, but was ruled a block touch after being challenged by De Jesus.
"Good fight naman," said dela Cruz. "We're confident sa mga rookies. Though nagkakaroon po kami ng errors, nire-remind namin ang mga sarili namin na bawi na lang."
Tiamzon had 17 points to lead La Salle, along with 12 digs and 13 receptions. Dela Cruz finished with 13 and Gagate scored 10 in her UAAP seniors debut, with five of her points coming on blocks. The Lady Spikers had a huge 53-33 advantage in kills, a 10-6 lead in blocks, and a 4-2 lead in aces.
That helped them offset their 33 unforced errors in the game.
Only Nisperos reached double-digit scoring for Ateneo, with 13 points. Maraguinot finished with 9 markers, tapering off after a hot start to the game.
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