MANILA – Far Eastern University (FEU) coach George Pascua was not disappointed in Bernadeth Pons' performance in Game 1 of their Finals series against De La Salle University, even after the team captain was limited to a paltry nine-point output.
Pons was well-defended by the Lady Spikers in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 80 women's volleyball Finals, and the veteran spiker managed only six kills in the game, though she also punched in three service aces.
Still, her inability to puncture La Salle's net defense was a factor in FEU's 27-29, 21-25, 22-25 loss in the series opener. It was undoubtedly a subpar showing for Pons, who averaged 18.5 points against La Salle in the elimination round.
"Sabi ko kay Pons, binigay niya naman 'yung best niya," Pascua told reporters after the game, which put FEU in a must-win situation on Wednesday's Game 2. "Siyempre, talagang siya 'yung babantayan ng La Salle."
"Knowing naman si Pons, hindi mo naman pwedeng tawaran 'yun, talagang 'yung puso ng bata kapag naglaro, talagang ibibigay niya 'yung best niya," the coach further pointed out.
Indeed, even as Pons was held in check offensively, she was once again superb on defense. Pons came through with 12 receptions and 17 digs, effectively playing as a second libero for the Lady Tamaraws whenever she was in the back row.
Once she was in front, however, Pons rarely managed to get a clean hit. Often, she was met by three blockers at the net.
"Nabantayan talaga siya," Pascua noted. "Nagpahandaan din si Pons, pero not bad sa ginawa ni Pons."
"Humihingi ako (ng bola)," Pons would say. "Kasi siyempre, kailangan namin pumuntos eh. Kailangan talaga, merong mag-step up. Sadyang wala talaga (ngayon)."
With La Salle's defense concentrated on the open spiker, the Lady Tamaraws went to their other options, and for a while, it worked. Middle blocker Czarina Carandang, in particular, was effective in the second set with a variety of quick hits. They were also able to get good hits for Heather Guino-o, who led the Lady Tamaraws in scoring with 14 points.
But Pons was held in check, along with utility spiker Chin-Chin Basas who only had six points. Pascua knows that if they are to push La Salle to a deciding game, he needs better performances from his two top scorers. He has also stressed the need for the Lady Tamaraws to lessen their errors, after giving away 34 free points to the Lady Spikers.
"Kailangan makapag-adjust na sila," Pascua said of his players. "Hopefully, sa game namin, sa Game 2, ma-minimize lang (ang errors). 'Yun lang naman ang problema. The rest, okay naman."
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