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(C) Roman Prospero/SSL


SSL: Regina Jurado takes charge as UST knocks off Benilde, sets up all-UAAP Final Four

Vengeful University of Santo Tomas held off College of St. Benilde, 25-15, 25-16, 19-25, 32-30, in a thrilling knockout duel to secure the last spot in the Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Collegiate Pre-Season Championship Season 2 Final Four on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.

The Golden Tigresses squandered a substantial lead in the fourth set before making a comeback in time, thanks to the heroics of Regina Jurado, Jonna Perdido, and Bianca Plaza, exacting sweet revenge in the extended quarterfinals against the gritty Lady Blazers following a challenging five-set defeat in Game 1.

With a win-once bonus as the No. 2 seed, UST advanced to set up a semifinal showdown against Far Eastern University for a spot in the championship of SSL Season 2, which is sponsored by Mikasa, Eurotel, Victory Liner, Summit Bottle Water, Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken, R and B Milk Tea, Potato Corner, Rebel Sports, Converge ICT Solutions, Genius Sports, and United Auctioneers, Inc.

Reigning champion National U, the only unbeaten team in the tournament, and Adamson are in the other pairing of the knockout Final Four on Sunday, with the survivors advancing to the best-of-three finale beginning on Friday.

Regina Jurado scored 16 points on 15 hits, an ace, and a block, including several clutch plays in the fourth set to lead UST in replicating their Final Four performance from the inaugural season.

Perdido and Angeline Poyos added 16 and 15 points, respectively, while Plaza made her presence felt down the stretch with four points, highlighted by the last two points that secured the extended duel, 32-30.

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“We’re a young team against a veteran St. Benilde squad na two-time NCAA champion. Nakita nyo kung gaano sila ka-solid, ayaw talaga bumitaw. Nanalo kami sa disgrasya. Nadisgrasya namin sila sa huling palo kasi lahat ng set-up at attacks at combination play namin, nakapag-adjust sila,” said UST mentor Kungfu Reyes.

“Credits to St. Benilde. ‘Yun nga, we’re a young team and nahatak kami ng natahak going into the semis. Malaking bagay sa amin ito lalo twice-to-beat kami, tapos twice beaten. ‘Yun sana ang branding namin.”

After suffering a 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 11-15 loss in Game 1, UST asserted its dominance early by taking a commanding 2-0 lead, only to falter in the third set with a 25-19 defeat as two-time reigning NCAA champion St. Benilde displayed its pedigree once again.

The Golden Tigresses came close to a quick 3-1 victory with a 24-21 lead in the fourth set, only to witness another Lady Blazers’ comeback to force a deuce and even snatch the driver’s seat at 27-26 with a Gayle Pascual hit.

Jurado and Perdido took turns neutralizing Rhea Mae Densing’s late attacks, resulting in a 30-all score. Then, Plaza, who had just subbed into the match for blocking purposes, unleashed two surprise attacks to secure UST’s hard-earned win.

Pascual and Densing contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively, for St. Benilde under the guidance of coach Jerry Yee.

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