UAAP: UST closes in on Season 81 title after dismantling Ateneo

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2019 05:44 PM | Updated as of May 11 2019 06:32 PM

UAAP: UST closes in on Season 81 title after dismantling Ateneo 1
Sisi Rondina and the UST Golden Tigresses are one win away from the UAAP Season 81 crown. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- Unleashing a remarkable display of firepower, University of Santo Tomas closed in on its first UAAP women's volleyball crown in 9 years after dismantling Ateneo de Manila University in Game 1 of the Season 81 Finals.

The Golden Tigresses, behind a superb outing from MVP Sisi Rondina, thoroughly outplayed the Lady Eagles in a 25-17, 25-16, 25-20 triumph to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 series.

In front of a crowd of over 17,000 at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, the Golden Tigresses raced to a strong start and never let up, as they booked their first win over Ateneo since the second round of the UAAP Season 74 women's volleyball tournament.

In the process, they not only ended a 14-match losing streak to the Lady Eagles -- they also inched closer to their first UAAP championship since Season 72, when a team bannered by Rhea Dimaculangan and Aiza Maizo dethroned La Salle.

Rondina scored 23 points on 20 kills, two blocks, and an ace in leading the Golden Tigresses to their 7th consecutive win in the tournament, and on the brink of the crown.

"Magandang morale ito para sa mga bata," said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes. "Yung history, medyo matagal na pero 'di ko na masyado dinidiin. Ang importante, play at the present kami."

"Pinag-aralan namin kung saan kami pwede lumusot sa Ateneo, considering na sila ang No. 1 blocking team," he added. "Gumagawa lang kami ng paraan, at kakayanin naman namin, kasi kami ang No. 1 scoring team."

It was an overwhelming triumph for the Golden Tigresses, who unloaded 46 attack points and 10 service aces against the seemingly shell-shocked Lady Eagles.

They raced to a 2-0 lead behind Rondina, who was simply unstoppable in the game. Her powerful hit sparked a 6-1 exchange that turned a 10-6 advantage into a commanding 16-7 lead in the second set, and Tigresses cruised from there.

They recovered from a slow start in the third set to take a 16-11 lead, and were in control, 21-18, thanks to fine attack from Rookie of the Year Eya Laure.

Ateneo made one last run, as Kat Tolentino helped them come to within one point, 21-20, prompting a timeout from Reyes.

Unfortunately for the Lady Eagles, they would come no closer. Erika Raagas, sent in for the inefficient Ponggay Gaston, sent her attack to the net, and Rondina responded with two consecutive hits that the Lady Eagles had no hope of stopping. Another attack error from Raagas -- this time sending her hit long -- wrapped up the match for the Golden Tigresses in an hour and 27 minutes.

"Sobrang focused talaga ako," said Rondina, who scored in a variety of ways for the Tigresses. "Wala akong ibang iniisip -- laro lang talaga. Ano magiging galaw ko, ano magiging service ko, ano magiging receive ko."

Laure added 11 points for the Tigresses, while Caitlyn Viray had 7 points. Setter Alina Bicar had 6 points on top of 19 excellent sets for UST.

Ateneo struggled with its first ball once more, as they gave up 10 service aces to UST. Their offense fell apart in the process: the Lady Eagles managed just 24 attack points. Even their blocking was not on point, as they got only 5 kill blocks in the game.

It was a far cry from their meeting in the second round, when the Lady Eagles overhauled a two-set deficit to UST behind their tremendous net defense that produced 22 kill blocks -- 11 of which came from Madayag.

Tolentino was the lone player in double-digits for Ateneo, with 12 points.

The Golden Tigresses can secure the crown in Game 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.

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