Having made their season on tight five-set wins, the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws mustered another clutch performance, escaping the top-seeded Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25, 15-8, and dragging their semifinals series to a do-or-die match at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo took advantage of a dazed FEU side to start the match, claiming a 7-1 start and burying the Lady Tamaraws. FEU then stopped Ateneo’s momentum in the second frame, forcing a defensive grind. Tied at 23, Jeanette Villareal rose from a long rally and tipped a shot in to give the Lady Tams set point. Another extended rally finished in FEU’s favor in the following point as Ateneo’s Ponggay Gaston coughed up an attack error.
Poor serve reception cost Ateneo the third set, with FEU going on a 5-0 run – capped by a Heather Guino-O ace – to establish a 22-17 lead. Another Gaston error set FEU up at 24-20. Kat Tolentino then tried to rally the Lady Eagles, finishing off back-to-back plays. Unfortunately, Deanna Wong’s service error gave FEU the set.
The fourth set was all Ateneo, with FEU crumbling on receive and attack, leading to a 20-11 Ateneo lead.
In the fifth frame, FEU clawed their way back from a slim deficit to a 12-7 lead following a Jerrili Malabanan kill and a France Ronquillo ace. Ateneo errors then closed the match.
FEU head coach George Pascua was already focused on Game Two, knowing that this was just the first step to returning to the Finals.
“Hindi pa tapos eh. May mga bagay pa na ifi-fix for Game Two. Alam naming ibang team at intensity ang lalabas pagdating ng Wednesday,” said Pascua.
FEU won all their sets by tight margins, surviving 17 Ateneo aces and just scoring 32 points off attacks. Guino-O led the Lady Tamaraws with 17 points from eight attacks, five aces, and four blocks.
The Lady Tamaraws went up to 6-1 in five-setters for the season while Ateneo absorbed their first loss in five sets after two wins in the elimination round.
Ateneo’s senior trio led the way as Kat Tolentino managed 21 points, Bea De Leon 16, and Maddie Madayag 13.
The winner-take-all match will be on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
FEU (3) – Guino-O 17, Villareal 10, Malabanan 8, Ronquillo 7, Cayuna 4, Carandang 3, Agudo 2, Domingo 1, Negrito 1, Hernandez 0, Duremdes (L)
ADMU (2) – Tolentino 21, Madayag 16, De Leon 13, Gaston 7, Wong 7, Gandler 4, Samonte 4, Maraguinot 0, Raagas 0, Gequillana K. (L)