MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University is on the brink of securing the V-League Women's Collegiate Challenge title after a hard-earned five-set victory over Adamson University, Sunday at the Paco Arena.
Faith Nisperos was sensational, firing 35 points including eight in the fifth set as Ateneo carved out a 20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 18-16 triumph in the first game of the best-of-three championship series.
Nisperos put the Blue Eagles at match point, 14-9, but the Lady Falcons fought back behind Trisha Tubu and Rizza Cruz to take the next five points and extend the match. The two teams traded hits for a 16-all count, but AC Miner's quick kill and Lyann de Guzman's clutch ace finished off Adamson.
"We're not thinking about the championship right away, we're thinking of the process. I know I have a new team, most of them ngayon lang nag-start. It's all about the process," said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, whose wards gave away 40 points off their unforced errors.
Nisperos matched her career-best effort, having also scored 35 points against De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB) during the battle for third place in the 2019 Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference.
The Blue Eagles earlier failed to clinch it in the fourth set after blowing a 24-22 lead on a Vanie Gandler crosscourt attack as Kate Santiago tallied three straight points for the Lady Falcons before Lorene Toring hit an ace to force extension.
Gandler also stepped up to fire 20 points on 14 attacks, four aces and two blocks to go and finished with 11 excellent digs while Miner added 18 points.
Tubu led Adamson with 17 points while Cruz chipped in 16 points, she laced with five blocks.
The Blue Eagles try to wrap it all up on Wednesday starting at 5 p.m.
"'Yun ang kailangan namin aralin. Starting well and closing out games. We should play according to the level of the tournament. Mataas ang level ng Adamson eh so we have to equalize and higitan pa namin," shared Almadro.
Meanwhile, CSB showed too much power and class as it trounced University of the Philippines (UP), 25-20, 25-17, 25-16, to clinch third place honors in women’s play.
Jade Gentapa sizzled with 17 points on 14 attacks, two service aces and a block, while Gayle Pascual came through with 14 points and skipper Mycah Go added 10 points, eight digs and six excellent receptions to anchor the reigning NCAA champions’ one-hour and nine-minute romp.
"Masaya buti nakuha pa rin namin 'yung bronze kahit papaano. Laro lang kami, trabaho lang, nakuha namin 'yung third we're very happy," said Benilde head coach Jerry Yee.
Up by two sets, the Lady Blazers never let up and kept pounding the Fighting Maroons as Pascual, Gentapa, Corinne Apostol and Michelle Gamit combined to steer St. Benilde to a big 13-3 bulge in the third set on their way to victory.
Stephanie Bustrillo led UP with 10 points.
In the night cap, University of Perpetual Help System DALTA swept Ateneo, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20, to secure the bronze in men's competitions.
Louie Ramirez shone with 22 points on 20 attacks and two kill blocks as he added another medal after a silver finish in the recent Spikers' Turf and a gold in the PNVF Champions' League two weeks ago, both with Cignal.
"Third place hindi siya masama. Gusto namin na ma-maintain talaga 'yung bilang NCAA champion. It's a good start for us," said Perpetual head coach Sammy Acaylar.
"Nagpapasalamat ako sa Sports Vision kasi nakita ko at nabasa ko kung hanggang saan kami. Kung may kulang, we have to practice more. Kung may sobra naman, syempre pag-igihin pa namin kasi nasa third place lang kami ngayon eh. Gusto namin umakyat pa," he added.
Ateneo forced a tie at 17 in the third set but the Altas went to Klint Mateo, Kirth Rosos, KC Andrade and Ramirez to frustrate the Blue Eagles.
Andrade added 13 points for Perpetual while Hero Austria put up a triple-double performance of 10 points, 12 excellent digs and 10 excellent receptions.
Abai Llenos and Kennedy Batas paced Ateneo with 14 and 12 points, respectively.