UAAP: Ateneo progresses in step-ladder after sweep of UST

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2022 08:27 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2022 10:03 PM

The Ateneo Blue Eagles celebrate after scoring against the UST Golden Tigresses in their UAAP Season 84 step-ladder match. UAAP Media.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles celebrate after scoring against the UST Golden Tigresses in their UAAP Season 84 step-ladder match. UAAP Media.

MANILA (UPDATED) - Ateneo de Manila University's defense of its UAAP women's volleyball crown continues. 

The Blue Eagles will move on to the next phase of the UAAP Season 84 step-ladder after a straight sets victory against the University of Santo Tomas, Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The defending champions showed remarkable composure in crunch time situations, coming away with an impressive 25-23, 25-23, 25-20 result in the first semifinals match of the women's volleyball tournament. 

Faith Nisperos was superb, tallying 23 points on 17 kills, four aces and two blocks, while Vanie Gandler provided solid support with 15 points. Erika Raagas contributed nine markers as the Blue Eagles notched a 48-38 advantage in attacks against the Golden Tigresses.

"We know that UST will not let up. In every set, kami 'yung naghahabol," noted Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. "It's just a matter of us finishing strong, and finishing right. We relied on our fundamentals, and 'yun ang pinaka-importante."

This was Ateneo's third consecutive do-or-die match, starting with their final elimination round game against the University of the Philippines that they won in four sets. Last Saturday, they swept Adamson University to claim the last spot in the Final 4.

With this latest win, the Blue Eagles set-up a semifinal showdown against archrival De La Salle University, with the Lady Spikers owning a twice-to-beat advantage.

The Blue Eagles got it done in cardiac fashion in the first two sets, as they executed better down the stretch to stun the Golden Tigresses. 

Ateneo trailed 20-22 in Set 1 off a big hit by Eya Laure but won five of the next six rallies, with rookie middle blocker AC Miner rejecting Imee Hernandez at the net to force a 23-all tie. Gandler out-smarted the UST blockers to put Ateneo at set point, and Lyann de Guzman came up with a huge block of Laure to secure the win.

UST looked set to equalize after taking an 18-14 lead in the second frame. But behind a series of kills by Nisperos, Ateneo uncorked a 7-0 blast that pushed them ahead, 21-18. UST responded with a 5-1 run of their own, capped by a clutch hit by Ysa Jimenez, to take a 23-22 advantage.

But Nisperos and Gandler came up with clutch hits, and Jeycel delos Reyes blocked a hit by Jimenez to put Ateneo up, 2-0.

Nisperos would not be denied in Set 3, as she put the Blue Eagles in control, 22-15, before hitting the cut shot for match point, 24-18. A hit by Ypril Tapia and an error by Jaja Maraguinot kept UST alive, but Nisperos came through with the winner off a superb play to send Ateneo to the next stage.

 "I'm very happy that our players did their role and did their best in winning this match," said Almadro.

Laure finished with 15 points on 13 kills for the Tigresses, with Hernandez contributing 11 points. Camille Victoria had seven markers, including three blocks. But UST struggled to keep up with Ateneo's firepower, particularly in the closing stretch of each set.