After suffering decisive losses in their first two matches, the NU Lady Bulldogs managed to squeeze past the feisty UP Lady Maroons in a 21-25, 25-28, 23-25, 25-12, 15-9 thriller at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With UP playing in its first game in a venue other than the San Juan Arena, the Lady Maroons seized their opportunity and the sizable crowd advantage, managing to eke out tight set wins in the first and third canto. NU responded emphatically after suffering each set loss by powering through the Girls from Katipunan in the second and fourth set.
In their won sets, UP squeezed everything they could out of open hitters, Nicole Tiamzon and Vina Alinas. However, the pair lost steam in the latter parts of the match, giving NU free points after their numerous attack errors. NU’s towering middle blocker, Jaja Santiago, grabbed the reins for her team and steered them to crucial set wins when UP tried to rally. Santiago’s teammate, first year player Jorelle Singh came up big in the last two sets of the match, leading an overwhelming, resurgent NU attack which suffered mightily early due to the loss of starting setter, Ivy Perez.
NU coach Dong Dela Cruz gave his team a pep talk after dropping the third set. “Sinabi ko lang na you have to take a deep breath. Pinahinga ko sila tapos sabi ko ibalik natin yung composure natin ng second set. Kung ano ginawa natin nun, ibalik natin. Tapos magtrabaho tayo at di pwede magbigay ng points so siguro nagising sila dun.”
Santiago and Singh finished with 20 points each, leading all scorers. Myla Pablo pitched in 16 loud points while Rizza Mandapat mustered 11 points. NU also put up a wall of blocks, getting their hands on 70 UP attacks and scoring on five of them.
Alinas and Kathy Bersola both drove in 16 points for UP while Nicole Tiamzon amassed 14 points on 51 spike attempts. What put the nail in UP’s coffin was their 36 unforced errors.
Coach Dela Cruz was asked about how losing their first two games against Ateneo and La Salle affected the team. “Mabigat na laban eh, mabigat na talo. Dala dala pa rin hanggang ngayon yung bigat. Buti nalang medyo nakarecover sa bandang huli.”
“Medyo downhill yung mga bata. Hopefully yung panalo na ito magtaas ng morale nila.”
When asked about Santiago’s difficulty with Asi’s sets, coach said “Ganon talaga, kasi nasanay si Jaja kay Ivy. Ang maganda lang, nag step-up si Asi kahit injured si Ivy.”
“So far kasi wala pa kami sa time mag panic, pero kasi mahirap mabaon sa 0-3. So yung panalo na ito, although hindi ko tinitignan na magandang panalo, panalo pa rin. Sa standing kasi importante na may panalo kami… Pero marami pa kaming tatrabahuin. Yung mga unforced errors namin na napakadami ay problema namin.”
“Hopefully ito mag serve na wake up call para next time relax maglaro sa loob.”
NU – Singh 20, Santiago 20, Pablo My. 16, Mandapat 11, Dadang 5, Soliven 1, Pablo Ma. 0, Doromal 0, Doria 0, Abriam 0, Naval (L) 0, General (L) 0.
UP – Alinas 16, Bersola 16, Tiamzon 14, Araneta 11, Ong 4, Ilustre 2, Lai 1, Magulabnan 1, Ortiz 0, Buitre 0, Sandoval 0, Magtalas 0, Estranero (L) 0, Gaiser (L) 0.