MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Eya Laure reset her career-high as the University of Santo Tomas (UST) took down defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in four sets, Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Laure exploded for 31 points in the Golden Tigresses' 25-19, 25-21, 29-31, 33-31 triumph against the Blue Eagles, their fifth win of the UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball tournament against two defeats.
UST stopped Ateneo's three-match winning streak and dropped the defending champions to 3-4 in the season. The Golden Tigresses, who have already played two five-setters in the first round, needed two hours and 28 minutes to complete the victory.
Head coach Kungfu Reyes compared the match to a rollercoaster ride but was glad to see his players pull off yet another confidence-boosting win after their five-set triumph against Adamson University last Tuesday.
"'Yan ang pinakamaganda doon, 'yung experience," said Reyes. "'Yun ang magandang kukunin namin and dadalhin namin towards the second round."
UST took the first two sets comfortably but were undone by their errors in the third frame. Ateneo also showed its grit, saving two set points to force a 26-all deuce when rookie middle blocker AC Miner blocked Laure at the net. A mishit by Laure put Ateneo at set point, 27-26, but the Tigresses got a lifeline when Erika Raagas threw away her next serve.
The Tigresses saved two more set points, but a Vanie Gandler pipe and a mishit by Ypril Tapia allowed the Blue Eagles to force a fourth set.
The fourth frame was a tug-of-war, with Ateneo saving six match points and threatening to force a fifth set when Gandler beat the UST blockers for a 31-30 lead.
But Faith Nisperos sent her serve to the net, and KC Galdones rejected Gandler in the next rally to give the Tigresses their seventh match point. This time, UST made sure not to waste it, as they went to Laure whose hit bounced off the Ateneo blockers for the win.
"Nagkalat ng unforced errors ang both teams," noted Reyes. "Pero naka-chamba na lang ulit kami. Na-chambahan ulit ni Eya."
Laure continued her sensational campaign in Season 84, converting 30 of 73 attacks and firing off an ace to lead the Tigresses. But she had plenty of help, with Imee Hernandez adding 14 points, Galdones scoring 12, and Tapia finishing with 11. The Tigresses had 73 kills against Ateneo's 56, allowing them to get away with committing 39 unforced errors.
"Sinabi ko na lang din habang nagha-huddle, walang duwag na tigre," Laure said of her message to her teammates.
Nisperos had 22 points and Gandler added 18 markers in the loss for the Blue Eagles, who have yet to win a match against any of the teams in the upper half of the league standings. They ended the first round tied with University of the Philippines for fifth place.
It was not all good news for UST, however, as they lost rookie Tin Escalla to an ankle injury in the second set. She had to be helped off the court after an awkward fall and did not return to the match.