MANILA, Philippines—University of Santo Tomas is on the brink of a return trip to the Final 4, after the Golden Tigresses booked an important victory over University of the Philippines on Wednesday.
The spikers from España are now assured of at least a playoff for a semifinal spot in UAAP Season 81 after beating the Lady Maroons, 25-21, 25-12, 26-24, a crucial win that hiked their record to 8-4, with just two games left in the elimination round.
They still have to battle Far Eastern University and National University, but as it stands UST is on track not just for a Final 4 spot but they also remain in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage as well.
"On the right track pa rin kami," said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes after Wednesday's triumph, which saw his team deal a blow to UP's own Final 4 hopes. "Malaki na 'yung chance namin para makarating sa Final 4."
"Sa amin, ang importante lang, panalunin 'yung last two games namin. At least, kami ang may control ng lahat," he added.
With this in mind, UST captain Sisi Rondina made it clear that the Golden Tigresses cannot take their eyes off the prize. She scored 20 points against UP, ending long rallies with powerful hits, and keeping balls alive with her frenetic energy in the backline.
Now, with a chance to head to the semifinals in her final season with UST, Rondina wants her team to be on the same page.
"Sa opinyon ko, 'pag andoon 'yung complacency namin, any time pwede mawala sa amin 'yun," she pointed out. "Lagi na lang kami kumakapit sa word na, 'Kaya namin'."
"Pero 'di namin makukuha iyon 'pag 'di namin trinabaho," Rondina added. "Kaya every time nagte-training kami, tina-tama namin 'yung mga pagkakamali namin."
Even though they are assured of a playoff for a semis spot, the Golden Tigresses will not have an easy path to the Final 4. The Lady Tamaraws also have an identical 8-4 win-loss slate, and will be desperate to win when they face off on Sunday. UST's last opponent, NU, is no pushover as well.
The results of other teams' games will also play a factor in UST's fate. In particular, the Golden Tigresses will be observing the upcoming showdown between archrivals Ateneo and La Salle on Saturday, as it will affect their pursuit of the second seed.
For now, however, UST just wants to take care of its own business.
"Kung ano ang laban ng La Salle tsaka ng Ateneo, magkakaroon kami ng chance para maka-tie kami sa No. 2, kung sakali," noted Reyes. "Pero kung sakali na 'yun."
"Wala kami 'yung relax lang," added Rondina. "Pukpukan kami sa training, and lahat ng tiwala, binibigay nila coach."
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