Barely squeaking into the Final Four, the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Lady Altas made the most of their late breaks to drag the top-seeded College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers to a do-or-die match for the last NCAA Season 94 Finals spot, 25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Perpetual threw off Saint Benilde with their target serving in the first two sets, leading to convincing wins. The Lady Blazers adjusted, throttling the Lady Altas to prolong the match.
Benilde had a fifth set in sight, leading 22-14 in the fourth frame. But Cindy Imbo then took charge. The veteran displayed calm in the service line, scoring two aces in a stretch that pushed the Perpetual to a 22-all tie. At that point, Benilde lost all momentum and gave away three consecutive errors to give the win to Perpetual.
Perpetual head coach Michael Cariño lauded his team’s stellar start after executing their game plan to the tee in the first two sets.
When Benilde adjusted, Cariño’s Lady Altas stayed firm.
“Sabi ko sa kanila na magtiwala lang, tapos mag-focus lang kami noong dulo kasi ‘di pa naman tapos ‘yun. Kaya pa namin kunin,” said Cariño of the frantic fourth set.
“Gumana talaga ‘yung target serving namin today. Siguro mag-aaral pa kami lalo for Game Two para makahanap pa ng pwede naming ma-adjust,” added Carino, who steered Benilde to their first championship two years ago.
Imbo finished with an all-around line of 19 points, 17 digs, and 16 excellent receptions. Opposite hitter Jenny Gaviola added 15 markers.
Graduating middle blocker Rachel Austero topped the Lady Blazers with 18 points, while Klarisa Abriam managed 15.
The two teams face off for the last time next Tuesday at the same venue.
UPHSD (3) – Imbo 19, Gaviola 15, Rosal 11, Tripoli 5, Umandal 5, Versoza 4, Gual 3, Scott 2, Castillo 0, Llorente 0, Dayao (L), Sangalang (L)
CSB (1) – Austero 18, Abriam 15, Pablo 12, Daguil 9, Gamit 7, Umali 2, Cardiente 1, Cui 1, Lai 1, Dolorito 0, Lim (L), Torres (L)