The Lady Maroons kept their Final Four hopes alive as they squeaked past the UST Tigresses in five sets, 11-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-18, 15-11 at the San Juan Arena.
Powered by their co-captains, Angeli Araneta and Nicole Tiamzon, the Lady Maroons shook off slow starts to quell their Final Four contenders. Araneta and Tiamzon each pitched in 15 points while sophomore Vina Alinas had 11 markers.
The Lady Maroons struggled on the first touch in the first set, as they squandered easy scoring opportunities into free balls which the UST outside spikers EJ Laure, Pam Lastimosa, and Mela Tunay easily converted into points.
The Lady Maroons found their groove in the second set, as UP’s net and floor defense bothered UST’s attackers. UP rookie setter Jewel Lai had a sequence of three consecutive aces, which pushed the Lady Maroons’ lead to 16-11, easily claiming the set.
Both teams traded set wins in the following two frames as they imposed their strengths- UST’s outside hitting and blocking in the third set and UP’s middle hitting and veteran play in the fourth. The fifth set came down to UST surrendering a multitude of errors, piling up six in the set. UP service specialist Hannah Mangulabnan put the set out of doubt, drilling two clutch aces to give UP a 14-10 lead. A Tiamzon open hit clinched the game for the Lady Maroons.
UST rookie Laure led all scorers with 20 points off 15 attacks, four blocks, and an ace. Team captain Lastimosa contributed 14 points but was the cause of multiple errors, similar to Tunay who pitched in 11 markers.
The win marks the first time UP swept the elimination round over UST, and their chance to rank in the Final Four with a 5-7 record while the Thomasians drop to a 5-8 record.
The Lady Maroons will face the Lady Tamaraws at the MoA Arena on Wednesday while the Tigresses have the Lady Warriors at the San Juan Arena on Feb. 21.
UP – Araneta 15, Tiamzon 15, Alinas 11, Buitre 7, Ong 6, Lai 5, Ilustre 2, Mangulabnan 2, Estranero (L), Gaiser (L)
UST – Laure 20, Lastimosa 14, Tunay 14, Meneses 11, De Leon 5, Palec 3, Cortez 2, Dusaran (L), Rasmo (L)