UAAP: UST secures semis playoff with sweep of UP

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2019 05:52 PM | Updated as of Apr 10 2019 06:32 PM

UAAP: UST secures semis playoff with sweep of UP 1
The UST Tigresses are assured of at least a playoff for a Final 4 spot. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) University of Santo Tomas (UST) is assured of at least a playoff for a spot in the Final 4, after a tremendous victory over University of the Philippines (UP) on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

With graduating star Sisi Rondina leading the way, the Golden Tigresses claimed a 25-21, 25-12, 26-24 triumph over the Lady Maroons to improve to 8-4 in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament. 

At 8-4, UST is currently tied with Far Eastern University (FEU) for a share of third place. Thanks to their victory, the Lady Tamaraws are also now assured of a playoff for a Final 4 spot.

Meanwhile, the Lady Maroons -- one of the preseason favorites -- dropped to 6-6 and saw their Final 4 hopes grow dimmer after suffering a second consecutive defeat.

"Masaya kami, kasi total team effort ito," said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes. "Every rotation, every substitution, nagko-contribute nang maayos 'yung tao namin."

Rondina had 20 points, while rookie ace Eya Laure added 11 markers -- including the game-winning block on UP's Marian Buitre. The Tigresses had a 41-36 lead in attacks, an 8-7 lead in blocks, and an 8-2 advantage in aces.

The Lady Maroons were in control in the opening set, leading by as much as 6 points, 11-5. But behind the powerful swings of Rondina, the Tigresses clawed their way back. UP still led, 16-14, but out of the second technical timeout, UST scored 6 straight points -- a run capped by an error by the Katipunan spikers.

Back-to-back attack errors by Laure and Rondina gave UP a chance, but the Tigresses proceeded to win the next three points: Caitlyn Viray rejected Tots Carlos at the net; setter Alina Bicar won a joust against Isa Molde; and Carlos sent an attack wide to give UST a 23-18 lead that was enough for them to cruise to victory.

The Tigresses were superb in the second set. They were in control all the way through, and put up 12 attacks, five aces, and four blocks en route to claiming a 2-0 lead over UP.

Now with their backs against the wall, the Lady Maroons were able to build a two-point lead in the third frame, 16-14. But once again, UST roared back: Rondina anchored a 4-0 blast that put the Tigresses on top, 19-17, before UP countered with a 6-1 run. Buitre played a starring role in the scoring spree, contributing three kills.

A service error by Marist Layug and a kill by Laure made it a one-point game, 23-22, before Buitre scored again to put UP at set point, 24-22.

But the Lady Maroons were called for a violation that again trimmed the deficit to one, and Buitre sent a down-the-line hit long to knot the count at 24. Jessma Ramos was called for yet another violation that suddenly put UST at match point, 25-24, and Laure wrapped up the victory for UST by soundly rejecting Buitre's hit.

"Sa last moment lang, nag-ready mag-block (si Eya)," said Reyes. "Maganda din 'yung kilos ni Ysa Jimenez na nagpabagal ng laro sa kanila."

The result was crucial for the three teams chasing spots in the Final 4. UST and FEU moved closer to the semis, while also staying in the hunt for the No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, UP is now in a must-win situation heading into its final two elimination round games against National University and Adamson University.

Another loss will eliminate the Lady Maroons from Final 4 contention.

Buitre had 16 points, while Carlos added 10 markers for the Lady Maroons. But UP struggled to contain Rondina all game long, and could not execute in the crucial stretch of the third set when UST made its move.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.