MANILA -- (UPDATE) Ateneo de Manila University bucked a tight second set to sweep University of the East (UE) in their final elimination round game of the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament.
The Lady Eagles needed to overcome a gritty performance by the Lady Warriors in the first two sets, before cruising in the third to seize a 25-20, 27-25, 25-11 triumph on Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
In the process, they finished the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss record and secured the No. 1 seed in the Final 4, where they will face the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws.
Kat Tolentino led the way with 11 points, while Maddie Madayag had 10 blocks for the Lady Eagles, who finished with nine kill blocks in the game against only one for the Lady Warriors.
"Ito na 'yung simula ng totoong labanan. This is the real UAAP, the playoffs," said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, who commended the Lady Warriors for "pushing us up."
"Focused kami dito sa semifinals naman," he added. "Tapos na ang eliminations, one step forward na, semifinals na, so we will really pray hard and work hard to reach the championship series."
Though it was a sweep, the win was far from comfortable for the Lady Eagles as the Lady Warriors made it tough for them in the first two sets. UE was actually ahead, 19-18, in the opener after a crosscourt hit by Mean Mendrez.
But Ateneo won seven of the last eight points, including the last four to take a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Warriors continued to push them in the second set, even reaching set point, 24-21, after Judith Abil's crosscourt hit. Again, however, the Lady Eagles displayed their composure. They scored three straight points to knot the count at 24 -- two of which came off Abil's attack errors.
She made up for her miscue with an off-the-block hit that gave them a second set point, 25-24, but that was when the Ateneo veterans stepped up. Ponggay Gaston scored to tie the set anew, Ateneo captain Bea de Leon blocked a Mendrez attack, and Madayag served up an ace to complete the Lady Eagles' comeback.
With momentum on their side, the Lady Eagles cruised to victory in the third set, leading by as much as 24-7 and allowing Almadro to give his little-used players some minutes.
Mendrez finished with 12 points, and Abil had 11 points and 13 receptions in her final game for UE. Kath Arado, their ace libero, finished with 28 digs and 12 receptions in her last game as well. Also graduating were skipper Roselle Baliton, setter Lai Bendong, and Jasmine Alcayde.
The Lady Warriors wrapped up their campaign with a 3-11 slate, their best finish in seven years.
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