MANILA, Philippines—Far Eastern University's first victory over Ateneo in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament came at the perfect time, as the Lady Tamaraws pulled off a 5-set stunner over the Lady Eagles in the Final 4.
The Lady Tams were underdogs against the top-seeded Lady Eagles, who were armed with a twice-to-beat privilege in the semifinals. But FEU, brimming with confidence after an incredible win over La Salle last week, made sure Ateneo would need to use its semis bonus.
Behind a balanced scoring performance, and thanks in part to untimely errors by Ateneo, the Lady Tams pulled off a 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25, 15-8 victory on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena, forcing a do-or-die game for a spot in the best-of-3 Finals series.
The decider is on Wednesday at FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
For the FEU seniors, they kept a promise made to each other the night before what could have been the last game of their collegiate careers.
"Me and Kyle (Negrito) and Heather (Guino-o), last night we had a meeting," revealed FEU skipper Jerrili Malabanan after the game.
"We told each other that this was not gonna be our last game," she said. "So we're happy that our season is extended."
Guino-o confirmed: "Kahapon pa lang, iniisip na namin na hindi kami papayag na huli na naming laro 'to.
"Hindi pwede na huli na namin silang makakasama mag-laro. Kaya sobrang saya po, sobrang sarap sa pakiramdam na na-extend pa."
Guino-o was superb for FEU, scoring 17 points on 8 kills, 4 blocks, and 5 aces. Malabanan contributed 8 points, including a clutch kill in the fifth set that gave them a 13-8 advantage over the Lady Eagles.
Negrito, meanwhile, alternated with Gel Cayuna to run the show for the Lady Tamaraws in the win that took two hours and 28 minutes to complete.
The veterans kept the team together after Ateneo rallied from a 1-2 set deficit with a dominant showing in the fourth set, which saw them pepper the Lady Tamaraws with seven service aces.
Malabanan, in particular, reminded her teammates they were in very familiar territory.
"After the fourth set finished, I told them that it's not something that we're not familiar with," she said, referring to the numerous five set wars that FEU had endured in the elimination round.
"So, going into the fifth set, I think we felt confident that we could win that."
True enough, the Lady Tamaraws ended the match on a strong note, winning 8 of the last 9 rallies to book their first win over Ateneo in Season 81.
"Sobrang saya sa pakiramdam kasi nga po, dito namin malalaman kung last na namin or kung magtutuloy-tuloy pa kami. Pinatunayan namin na hindi pa po kami tapos," Guino-o said.
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