Staying on the upset train, the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Lady Altas mustered late clutch runs to dispel top seeds College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers, 25-17, 27-29, 19-25, 26-24, 16-14, and enter the NCAA Season 94 Finals at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
The Lady Blazers collapsed in their first meeting against the fourth-seeded Lady Altas last Tuesday. The top seeds came into the do-or-die outing in the same funk, allowing the Lady Altas to race to a quick first set win.
Saint Benilde turned their fortunes around in the second frame. The Lady Altas again rallied from behind, turning a 21-23 deficit into a deuce. Felicia Cui then hopped off the CSB bench and delivered crucial points. A Cindy Imbo service error made way for a Klarisa Abriam kill that gave Benilde a 28-27 lead. Cui then came up with a clutch ace that grazed the right sideline to give Benilde their first won set.
From there, the Lady Blazers remained in control, taking a 15-2 lead in the third frame before grabbing a 22-11 advantage in the fourth set. When they seemed out of contention, the Lady Altas received a boost from graduating winger Cindy Imbo. Behind Imbo, the Lady Altas crawled all they way back to take a 24-23 lead. Imbo then struck one more time, pounding an off the block hit that sent the match to a fifth set.
The Lady Blazers fought off a strong Perpetual start in the decider, leaning on veteran Rachel Austero to take a 10-7 cushion. Following a timeout, the Lady Altas erased Benilde’s lead thanks to scores from Imbo and Jowie Versoza. Imbo scored four straight to give the Lady Altas a 13-10 lead. Abriam then pulled the Lady Blazers to within one, 13-12, before Perpetual crawled to match point 14-13. Imbo then finished off the Lady Blazers with an ace.
Head coach Michael Cariño said Perpetual’s comebacks in the fourth and fifth set were born from their mental toughness.
“Makikita mo na lang talaga ‘yung mental toughness ng team. Talagang hindi bumitaw ‘yung mga bata,” said Cariño. “Nothing-to-lose na kami noong fourth set kaya siguro hindi na nawalan ng kumpiyansa ‘yung mga bata. Pagdating ng fifth set, kahit kanino na ‘yun eh.”
Imbo finished with a career-high 32 points off 29 attacks, two aces, and a block.
The Lady Altas enter the Finals for the first time Season 90. Game One of the best-of-three Finals between UPHSD and Arellano University kicks off on Friday at the same venue.
In her final NCAA match, Rachel Austero topped the Lady Blazers with 17 points. Libero Melanie Torres, who also suited up in college for the last time, managed 29 digs ans 16 excellent receptions.
UPHSD (3) – Imbo 32, Gaviola 10, Suico 9, Rosal 8, Versoza 7, Tripoli 6, Umandal 4, Llorente 1, Castillo 0, Scott 0, Dayao (L), Sangalang (L)
CSB (2) – Austero 17, Abriam 16, Umali 14, Cui 11, Daguil 6, Pablo 4, Tumang 3, Lai 1, Cardiente 0, Gamit 0, Miranda 0, Lim (L), Torres (L)