The sudden head coaching change did not hinder the NU Lady Bulldogs from pulling out a tough victory over the slumping UST Tigresses, 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 15-9 at the MoA Arena.
Though UST out-gunned NU with a 55-45 spiking advantage, their flurry of errors (42 to NU’s 34) and lack of net defense (7 block kills to NU’s 14) ultimately tipped the game away from them.
The Lady Bulldogs came out of the gates hot, claiming the first six points of the match eventually taking an 8-1 lead. An early timeout whipped the Tigresses into shape. Behind superb play from setter Alexine Cabanos and their middle blockers, UST stole the lead, 13-11. The teams played hot potato with the lead for the rest of the set with UST’s 17 set errors eventually getting the best of them.
The second set had the Thomasinas getting their noses in front early with an array of spikes from rookie EJ Laure. Jaja Santiago pulled her team back to another juggling act with the lead, single-handedly controlling the action at the net. UST managed to pull away, 21-19, but a flurry of their own errors plus timely stabs from Santiago gave NU a two-set lead.
A myriad of miscues from their sets and reception bogged the Lady Bulldogs down early in the third canto. The Tigresses rallied to an 11-5 lead before new NU coach Roger Gorayeb called timeout. NU battled back thanks to a run of great digging and attacking from the trio of Pablo, Mandapat, and Santiago. NU took a 20-18 lead but failed to notch another point for the rest of the set.
The fourth set saw both teams struggle to take momentum up until UST wrestled the lead away, 18-13 behind a resurgent Carmela Tunay who came into the game late in the third set. The Tigresses had a late 23-18 lead but more errors from UST made room for a late three-point spurt from NU which a Laure spike and an Ivy Perez service error quickly quelled, tying the game at two sets apiece.
Four early errors from UST pushed NU to an 8-2 lead to begin the final set, prompting Coach Mamon to sub rookie Cherry Rondina in for fellow rookie Laure. Three more UST errors balooned NU’s lead to 12-3 but the Lady Bulldogs squandered the lead with faulty reception, opening the door for UST to slice the lead to 13-9. Consecutive points from Santiago sealed the game for NU.
After the game, Coah Roger revealed that he had only practiced with the team for three days and said the biggest issue he needs to address is with his team’s overall confidence.
“Ang sabi ko nga kay Jaja, dapat minimum five points a set siya kasi nga 6’4′ otherwise para siyang 5’7 lang… [Myla Pablo] is very powerful, but she does not utilize it to the fullest, basta papalo lang siya… pag one man block sisiw na satin ya, di niyo na makukuha, iyun yung confidence na gusto ko maipasa sa kanya (Pablo),” said Gorayeb about his new players.
“Akala ko pa nga ako iyung malas, nung dumating ako, natalo,” Coach Gorayeb quipped about his late arrival as he had to drive from his other team’s (San Sebastian’s) game in San Juan.
Gorayeb is revered for his work in transforming the Ateneo Lady Eagles program, peaking in Season 75 with a trip to the Finals against eventual champs, DLSU.
NU- Santiago 28, Pablo 15, Doromal 8, Mandapat 6, Dadang 5, Soliven 2, Singh 1, Perez 0, General (L) 0
UST- Laure 16, Lastimosa 13, Tunay 10, Meneses 10, Cortez 8, De Leon 6, Cabanos 4, Rondina 3, Dusaran (L) 0