Following an uncharacteristic loss last Saturday, top seeds Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles bounced back and stifled the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws to earn a seat in the UAAP Finals, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Ateneo missed the Finals last year, for the first time in six seasons. This time, they will face the UST Tigresses in the best-of-three Finals. Game One will be on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Errors plagued FEU to start the match, as they piled up 11 in the first set. This directly led to a 20-15 Ateneo lead, from which they could not recover.
The Lady Tamaraws got their bearings in the second frame, opening with an 8-3 blitz. Ateneo then rallied to take an 18-15 lead. Following a timeout, FEU burst into a 6-0 run capped by a three Jerrili Malabanan hits, to retake the lead, 21-18. Malabanan again struck late, putting FEU at set point, 24-20. Ateneo rookie Vannie Gandler then served wide to give FEU the set.
A tight third set swung Ateneo’s way after FEU miscues propelled them to a 17-13 lead. The Lady Eagles nursed that lead until they reached set point, 24-20. FEU then mustered a late run, taking the next three points, until Ponggay Gaston capped a long rally with a cut shot and gave Ateneo the two-set advantage.
By the fourth set, FEU’s seniors completely lost grip on the match, going down 8-1. Ateneo saw FEU get within five, 15-10, but then closed the match on a 10-4 tear.
According to head coach Oliver Almadro, Ateneo’s recovery from their loss took a lot of emotional maturity from his entire team.
“Importante yung will ng heart and ng players namin. From number one to number 14, they really worked hard and really pushed each other up. Hindi pa dito tapos ang mission nila. We will trust the Lord and we will work harder,” said Almadro.
Kat Tolentino led all scorer with 19 points from 17 attacks and two blocks. Maddie Madayag and Ponggay Gaston each provided 12 markers.
In their final UAAP match, Jerrili Malabanan fired 18 points; Heather Guino-O added 12; while Kyle Nagrito tossed nine excellent sets and tallied three points.
The Lady Tamaraws made their fifth consecutive Final Four appearance, but failed to make a return to the Finals after meeting La Salle in the championship round last year.
ADMU (3) – Tolentino 19, Gaston 12, Madayag 12, De Leon 9, Samonte 4, Wong 3, Maraguinot 1, Furukawa 0, Gandler 0, Gequillana (L), Ravena (L)
FEU (1) – Malabanan 18, Guino-O 12, Villareal 11, Domingo 4, Cayina 3, Negrito 3, Ronquillo 3, Agudo 3, Hernandez 0, Duremdes (L)