MANILA, Philippines—University of Santo Tomas (UST) head coach Kungfu Reyes knows the Golden Tigresses cannot dwell on their loss to the Ateneo Lady Eagles in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 finals, as painful as it was.
With a chance to close out the Lady Eagles and win their first UAAP women's volleyball crown in nine years, the Golden Tigresses faltered on Wednesday. They lost to Ateneo in 4 sets, while also seeing newly crowned rookie of the year Eya Laure hobbled due to an ankle sprain.
The best-of-3 series, thus, is heading to a deciding game on Saturday.
"Kung ano lang ’yung nangyari nu’ng Game 1, baliktad lang, ganoon lang. Simple as that," Reyes said.
The Tigresses were sublime in the first game. Behind a terrific performance from MVP Sisi Rondina, they swept the Lady Eagles in straight sets, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20. They pounced on Ateneo's poor reception and floor defense all throughout the game, and rendered their offense ineffective.
They weren't as successful in Game 2, however. Ateneo libero Dani Ravena was solid in anchoring their defense, and their middle blockers — Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon — came up with bounce-back games.
To make matters worse for UST, Laure suffered an injury at the start of the third set that sapped them of their firepower.
"Meron pa kaming di inaasahang pangyayari na naman. So pinilit naming bumalik pero momentum-wise, nasa Ateneo," said Reyes.
Laure landed badly after going up to block Tolentino in the first rally of the third set, and had to be carried to the UST dugout to get treatment. She returned late in the third set, but was clearly not in her explosive best. Ateneo further targeted her in the fourth set with its serves, and the UST rookie was subbed out when it was clear that the Tigresses had no chance of making a comeback.
"Pinilit naman pero naramdaman hanggang sa dulo," Reyes said of his rookie ace. "In pain na (siya). Sinabi ko na kung hindi na kaya, wag nang pilitin."
With the season now down to one last game, Reyes said his team is ready to buckle down to work.
"No more drama," he stressed. "Go back to the drawing board. Move forward."
"Ma-limit lang namin ang mga error namin siguro," the coach further said, when asked what they need to do in Game 3. "Magkaka-alaman sa Sabado. Yun lang naman yun."
Game 3 is on Saturday, still at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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