MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Defending champion De La Salle University rose to solo second in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament after a hard-earned victory over University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Spikers rallied from a loss in the opening set, and showed their poise in the end game for a 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 26-24 victory over the Golden Tigresses in front of over 9,000 fans at the Pasig City venue.
La Salle claimed its second straight win and improved to 7-3, moving to No. 2 in the league standings just behind Ateneo de Manila University.
UST, for its part, dropped to 6-4. The Golden Tigresses defeated the Lady Spikers, 25-20, 25-22, 25-17 when they met in the first round, but could not complete an elimination round sweep of the defending champions.
Skipper Desiree Cheng put up 20 points for La Salle, while Aduke Ogunsanya had 12 points, including 4 blocks. The Lady Spikers had 12 kill blocks in the contest, and rendered the deadly UST pair of Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure less inefficient than usual.
"Yung first meeting namin ng UST ng first round, sobrang hindi organized ang blocking namin," noted La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus. "This time, talagang nag-adjust kami sa blocking, 'yun ang isang malaking factor."
"Isa sa mga game plan namin is kontrolin 'yung dalawang outside hitter na nagpo-produce sa kabila," he added. "Nag-work naman. Kahit sabihin natin na mataas ang score ni Laure, pero madami rin siyang errors."
A massive block by Kacey Galdones on Cheng gave UST the victory in the opening set, but the Lady Spikers equalized with a tight win in the second frame. The Lady Spikers' net defense helped them take an 18-11 lead, along with the erratic play of Laure.
But the Tigresses roared back, thanks in part to La Salle's own miscues and the heavy hitting of Rondina. They knotted the count at 23 after a service error by Norielle Ipac and an attack error by La Salle captain Cheng.
La Salle, however, showed its poise: Ogunsanya fired a quick kill, then Cheng overpowered the UST blockers for the win.
In the third set, La Salle pounced on the error-prone ways of Laure. UST was ahead, 12-9, when the rookie began to falter, committing several attack errors that helped the Lady Spikers score 10 unanswered points. The 19-12 lead allowed the defending champs to cruise to victory as UST committed 13 unforced errors in the third frame.
Neither team could gain control in the fourth frame, with La Salle surging to a 23-21 lead only for a Laure crosscourt and a Tin Tiamzon error to knot the count. Laure committed an attack error that put La Salle at match point, 24-23, but setter Mars Alba was called for a double contact violation that forced an extension.
That was when veteran middle blocker Des Clemente came up clutch, as she blocked Laure at the net to put La Salle at match point again. In the final rally of the game, Laure sent her attack to the tape of the net, and UST's 44th unforced error gifted La Salle the victory.
"Slow start," admitted de Jesus. "Medyo nangangapa pa ng first set. Sa practice, iba 'yung kinikilos natin, pero pagdating ng game, medyo tight. Sabi ko, mag-adjust lang, mas kumilos ng mas magaan."
Laure still finished with 20 points, but connected on just 16 of 59 spikes. Rondina finished with 19 points built on 18 kills, while no other UST player reached double-digits.
The loss dropped UST to fourth place in the league standings, just behind Far Eastern University (6-3). University of the Philippines is at fifth place with a 5-4 record.
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