In a battle between two remaining undefeated squads in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Tournament, the National University Lady Bulldogs emerged as the only team unscathed in a scintillating five-set match against defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers, 26-24, 19-25, 22-25, 25-17, 16-14, Sunday in the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Both squads engaged in a neck-and-neck battle, but it was the Lady Bulldogs’ desire to break the Lady Spikers’ systematic play that propelled them to a 4-0 record.
“Tama naman yung in-anticipate namin. Malakas kasi ang sistema nila [DLSU]. I’m happy that they were able to overcome it,” said NU head coach Babes Castillo. “Sa odds at odds lang, medyo mahihirapan kami kasi sampu lang kami. Pero I think the past training namin nakita ko ang determination nila.”
In the opening set, from 23-18, the Lady Bulldogs survived a late run by the Lady Spikers sparked by a clever off-speed attack courtesy of Arianne Layug, followed by three consecutive service aces from Michelle Cobb, to advance to 23-22. Risa Sato, Aiko Urdas, and Roselyn Doria stopped the bleeding and took care of the last three points to seal the first set, 26-24.
The nip-and-tuck tempo of the match continued in the second set, as both teams were tied at 19-all. NU’s defense collapsed afterwards, as La Salle cruised to six unanswered points, 25-19, equalizing the match at one set apiece.
Jaja Santiago clawed back for the Lady Bulldogs in the third set, killing every set given to her by Jasmine Nabor. However, several producers chipping in for La Salle — Majoy Baron, Kianna Dy, Desiree Cheng, Layug, and May Luna — assured a two set advantage, 25-22, for the ladies in green.
With the desire to force a decisive set, the Lady Bulldogs’ sense of urgency kicked in and they dominated the fourth set. After securing an early lead of 11-6, NU did not look back and took home their second set, sealed with a Nabor service ace, 25-17.
During the fifth set, La Salle secured a 10-7 lead. Castillo called a timeout and eventually managed to tie the set at 12-all. It was La Salle head coach Ramil De Jesus’ turn to regroup, but by the time they returned, the Lady Bulldogs were unstoppable. Santiago pushed NU to match point with a raging cross court attack, but Luna answered with her version through NU blockers to advance to 14-all. With Santiago in the middle, she attacked once again to break the tie for another match point. Urdas closed the exciting match with a service ace, 16-14.
“Sobrang high morale [kami] diba kasi defending champions sila tapos yung system nila buo talaga so ang hirap talunin. Sobrang saya na yung system nila natapatan namin,” said NU skipper Santiago, who scored the most with 27 points, 20 from attacks.
Sato added 15 markers, while Urdas and Paran chipped in 10 points each.
Luna created 12 points, while Baron and Dy chipped in 11 markers each for La Salle.
NU will try to remain unscathed as they face the University of Santo Tomas next on February 25. On the other hand, La Salle (3-1) will attempt to pick up a bounce-back win against the lowly University of the East on February 21, Wednesday.
NU (3) – Santiago 27, Sato 15, Urdas 10, Paran 10, Doria 8, Nabor 4, Singh 1, Doromal 0, Chavez L, Valdez L
DLSU (2) – Luna 12, Baron 11, Dy 11, Ogunsanya 8, Tiamzon 8, Layug 7, Cheng 6, Cobb 4, Saga 0, Macandili L, Saga L