Working without guest player and alumna Dindin Santiago-Manabat, the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs slip past the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws in four heated sets, 25-15, 25-22, 25-27, 25-23 in Game One of their Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference Semifinals series at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Tams opened the match looking lost while NU dropped bombs in their court via Myla Pablo and Jorelle Singh’s attacks. After taking the first set, the Lady Bulldogs built an early three-point wall in the following frame and never looked back. FEU utilized only their college players in the second set as they struggled to find consistent contributors.
The third frame had FEU play their optimal lineup, slotting guest player Royse Tubino in the middle blocker spot along with Remy Palma. With guest player, Jovelyn Gonzaga manning her usual opposite hitter slot, FEU stayed close throughout the third set and eventually pulled away late with a 23-21 lead after a Myla Pablo attack error. The Lady Bulldogs then responded, constantly feeding the ball to Santiago who pulled her team to match point, 24-23. Third year open hitter, Bernadeth Pons replied with a solo two point run to keep her team in the game, 25-24. Santiago followed up with a devastating quick attack but compromised the match with a service error in the following point that gave FEU another set point, 26-25. Gonzaga capped the pulsating trade with a kill off a combination play to force a fourth set.
FEU, however, looked deflated early in the fourth frame as they allowed NU to jump out to a 16-10 advantage. But Gonzaga refused to go away quietly and, with the help of Pons’ serving, dragged FEU to the lead 19-18. From there, both teams traded haymakers with NU squeezing out a late 23-22 advantage, forcing coach Shaq Delos Santos to call timeout. In the following play, Gonzaga looked to have pushed the ball off an NU blocker but the referees called the ball out, much to the dismay of the FEU side. Down 22-24, FEU eeked out one more point off a Gonzaga combination play but NU successfully stifled Jerrili Malabanan’s attack in the following point to nail the win.
Santiago led all scorers with 19 points off 17 attacks and two blocks. Her National Team ally, Myla Pablo turned in 18 markers while Singh contributed 11 points.
When asked about the controversial late game calls, NU head coach Roger Gorayeb expressed indifference explaining that there were plenty of FEU infractions the referees missed as well. “At least consistent sila,” Gorayeb jokingly said after pointing out the numerous violations he thought should have been called on his opponents.
He then continued by saying that his backup middle blocker, Roselyn Doria played a pivotal role in the win despite only turning in four points. “Kahit hindi kita sa stats sheet, maganda nilaro niya. Nakaka-block, maganda ‘yung serve, tapos nakaka-depensa pa kapag kailangan. Maganda ‘yung ipinakita niya. Hopefully, hindi magbago kasi pagdating ng UAAP, siya na talaga ‘yung gagamitin ko,” Gorayeb said about his third year skipper.
Pons led all Lady Tams with 16 points, sophomore Toni Rose Basas had 12, while Jovelyn Gonzaga finished with 11 markers.
A win in tomorrow’s Game Two tilt brings NU to the Finals where they will face the winner of the ADMU-UST series.
NU (3) – Santiago 19, Pablo 18, Singh 11, De Leon 6, Urdas 5, Doria 4, Nabor 1, General (L)
FEU (1) – Pons 16, Basas 12, Gonzaga 11, Palma 5, Tubino 5, Malabanan 3, Negrito 2, Cayuna 1, Guino-O 1, Hernandez 0, Duremdez (L), Atienza (L)
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