The Lady Bulldogs are one win away from their first Finals appearance in decades after dismantling the Lady Spikers in straight sets, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Bulldogs did a masterful job of keeping their offense fluid with all their attackers scoring eight points or more, while the Lady Spikers had trouble the entire game setting up their blocks to properly stop NU’s main gunners. The ever-growing Jaja Santiago and graduating open spiker, Myla Pablo led all scorers with 13 points apiece. Rookie Jorelle Singh turned in 10 points while Desiree Dadang turned in a Final Four career-high of eight markers.
The match began with both teams matching each other blow for blow. An 8-6 NU lead quickly swelled to 12-6 with NU’s outside hitters – Myla Pablo, Jorelle Singh, and Rizza Mandapat – easily traversing La Salle’s vaunted wall of blockers. NU’s steady stream of points continued to flow as the Lady Bulldogs built an 18-11 lead. La Salle tried to rally late in the set with team captain, Ara Galang, drilling home seven points in the set. But the Lady Bulldogs had the set in hand with Myla Pablo closing the set out with three late spikes.
Opting for a taller lineup the, Lady Spikers fielded the seldom-used rookie, CJ Soyud to begin the second set. La Salle’s adjustment, however, failed to move the needle as NU’s offense continued to churn out points at a pace La Salle just could not keep up with. La Salle trailed by only two, 14-16, heading into the second technical timeout, but a fiery Jaja Santiago buoyed her team to their second set triumph. Santiago controlled the action at the net, stifling Ara Galang and La Salle’s attempt at a comeback.
NU bolted to an early 8-3 lead in the final frame. La Salle’s reinvigorated blocking allowed them to tie the match at 10 all. Coach Ramil chose to inject rookie Aduke Ogunsanya to deal with Jaja Santiago’s imposing length. La Salle also tweaked their rotation so Ara Galang would not be in the attacking area at the same time with Santiago. The adjustments came to no avail as NU’s complimentary players – Pablo, Mandapat, and Desiree Dadang – played tremendously down the stretch. NU gave La Salle a taste of their own poison, demolishing La Salle’s attacks with perfectly timed blocks. La Salle also bursted at the seems, uncharacteristically surrendering late errors.
For the first time in his coaching career, NU Coach Roger Gorayeb triumphed over the Lady Spikers and their coach, Ramil De Jesus. But the veteran volleyball coach downplayed the magnitude of the win.
“I’m happy that we won. But then again, La Salle is at liberty to lose a game, twice to beat sila eh. Marami pa kaming kailangang gawin pero I’m proud of what my team has accomplished in the two short months I’ve been with them,” Coach Roger remarked.
The win was also NU’s first over La Salle since 2007, the season after La Salle’s infamous suspension.
NU now sets up a do-or-die date with the Lady Spikers on Saturday at the MoA Arena. The winner will face the thrice-to-beat Lady Eagles on March 11 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
NU – Santiago 13, Pablo 13, Singh 11, Mandapat 10, Dadang 8, Soliven 1, General (L), Valdez (L)
DLSU – Galang 14, Demecillo 10, Reyes 8, Baron 3, Fajardo 3, Cheng 2, Soyud 2, Dy 1, Cerveza 1, Ogunsanya 1, Macandili (L), Cruz Ci. (L)