Using the starting six that won them the title last season, the Ateneo Lady Eagles swept the UST Golden Tigresses 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 at the MoA Arena.
Errors plagued Ateneo throughout the match as they coughed up 28 errors, but their league-leading spiking pulled them out of the ditch, outspiking the Thomasians, 46-25. Ateneo also suffered injuries to middle blockers Aeriel Patnongon and Maddie Madayag with only Patnongon able to come back into the game.
The Lady Eagles got the jump early on the Tigresses, with team captain Alyssa Valdez leading the charge with five early attacks to power Ateneo to a 19-11 lead. The Lady Eagles piled on 17 spikes in the set to overwhelm UST’s net defense.
UST shaped up in the second set, taking an early 8-5 lead thanks to Ateneo errors. Tremendous play from Michelle Morente allowed Ateneo to pull ahead as her powerful spiking and on-point serves paced the Lady Eagles. The Lady Eagles continued to have problems as they surrendered nine errors in the set, but the Tigresses gave up 10 errors as well, including three in Ateneo’s final five points. Those errors buried the Tigresses as they had a tie at 21.
The Lady Eagles suffered another injury to a middle blocker in the final set of the match, as rookie Madayag landed awkwardly on her right ankle. Madayag did not return to the game. Madayag’s injury sparked a four-point UST run that had them take the lead at 12-9. Ateneo rallied hard to close out the game, Valdez toying with UST’s blockers. Ateneo then took the lead at 16-15 and never looked back, scoring an 8-1 run to nab set point. The Thomasians tried to rally late with setter Alex Cabanos pulling out tremendous serves, but a classic Morente combination play put the Thomasians away.
The UST High School standout Alyssa Valdez, led all scorers with 21 points off 20 spikes while Cool Cat, Michelle Morente pitched in 11 points, and Kiwi, Amy Ahomiro had 12 markers.
No Thomasian scored in double digits. Rookie EJ Laure, sophomore Ria Meneses, and team captain Pam Lastimosa each handed in nine points.
The win gives Ateneo an opportunity for a thrice-to-beat advantage and a chance to go straight to the finals with a 12-0 record, given that they win their remaining games, while the loss ties UST in the loss column with UP, each having seven losses.
The Lady Eagles will face the fumbling UE Lady Warriors at the San Juan Arena on Sunday while the Thomasians have their biggest match next, a date with the UP Lady Maroons on Valentine’s Day at the San Juan Arena.
Ateneo – Valdez 21, Ahomiro 12, Morente 11, De Jesus 7, Morado 3, Madayag 2, Patnongon 1, Lazaro (L) 0
UST – Laure 9, Lastimosa 9, Meneses 9, Cabanos 4, De Leon 4, Cortez 2, Tunay 1, Verutiao 0, Rondina 0, Dusaran (L) 0