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Tomasinas earn clutch win over Lady Blazers

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The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses averted a late-game setback and pulled out a tough five-set win over the College of Saint Benilde (CSB) Lady Blazers 25-12, 17-25, 25-21, 26-28, 15-7 in the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.

UST’s starting six delivered a balanced scoring sheet with Mela Tunay dropping 15 points off 12 for 32 spiking. Middle blocker, Jessey De Leon had 14 points while Ria Meneses, Pam Lastimosa, and Ej Laure each comntributed 12 points. Team captain, Lastimosa was especially brilliant in the end game, delivering five points in the deciding set.

Both teams traded resounding set wins to start off the match. The squad from España capitalized on Benilde’s errors in the opening set while the team from Taft stymied the UST offense effectively in the second set.

The third set saw a more steady back and forth with both teams feeding off each other’s miscues. The Tigresses first took the lead in the set with a 3-0 run highlighted by a Jesse De Leon block, 11-9. UST protected that slim two-point advantage throughout the set and eventually inflated it to four, 23-19 courtesy of a 5-1 run punctuated by a Chloe Cortez hit. Alex Cabanos and Mela Tunay followed their run with back-to-back errors but the Tigresses managed to put the set away as Mela Tunay and Ria Meneses earned them their final two points of the set and 2-1 set lead.

The fourth set had the same flow of the previous set with CSB pushing their lead to four early, 11-7, off a Janine Navarro ace. UST responded with a surge courtesy of Ej Laure’s serving. UST hijacked the lead, 17-14 after a Chloe Cortez cross-court hit but the Lady Blazers had a run of their own up their sleeve. Sparked by a Ria Meneses service error, the Lady Blazers welcomed an influx of four straight points, mostly from UST’s errors, to take the lead, 19-18. CSB could not extend their advantage and instead figured in another stretch of just attack exchanging. UST got a crack at match point after Ria Meneses converted a quick attack, 24-23. Ellaine Dolorito saved the CSB cause with an off the block kill, 24-24, but Pam Lastimosa quickly followed with a down-the-line stab for UST’s second chance at match point, 25-24. UST eventually got their third chance at ending the match after Tunay and Ranya Musa exchanged service errors keeping UST ahead, 26-25. From there, the Lady Blazers’ offense came alive with Janine Navarro and Melanie Torres notching consecutive kills for a 27-26 CSB lead and Benilde’s first set point advantage. Tunay tried to avoid two CSB blockers with a cross-court hit in the following point but sent her attack wide and the match into a fifth set.

After traversing a tightrope with CSB in the early goings of the final set, the Tomasinas blew the set wide open, 14-6, with a 5-0 scoring run courtesy of outstanding serves from Pam Lastimosa. After Jeanette Panaga copped a block off an Ej Laure hit, Jesse De Leon ended the match with a quick attack and gave UST their second win of the conference.

The loss was CSB’s first of the conference. Open hitter, Janine Navarro provided her team with a constant scoring option and wound up with 21 points. Her Cignal teammate, Jeanette Panaga followed with 11 markers while CSB’s other open hitter, Melanie Torres earned her eight points against UST’s much taller blockers.

After the match, UST head coach Kungfu Reyes recognized the benefits of his team having to grind out such a close win. “Gusto ko magpasalamat sa Benilde kasi binigyan nila kami ng napakagandang laban. Wala talagang team na bumigay. Kahit na panalo kami marami pang kailangan ayusin ‘yung team. Nakakapag-adjust na ‘yung team sa gusto kong triple block pero kailangan pa namin bawasan ‘yung errors namin,” expressed Reyes whose team tallied 37 errors.

UST looks to improve its 2-1 record when it faces the 1-2 TIP Lady Engineers on August 2, Sunday. CSB will have to go through the defending UAAP champs, Ateneo Lady Eagles, to earn its third win on August 1, Saturday.

The Scores

UST (3) – Tunay 15, De Leon 14, Meneses 12, Lastimosa 12, Laure 12, Cortez 5, Francisco 1, Verutiao 0, Cabanos 0, Rasmo (L), Hachero (L)

CSB (2) – Navarro 21, Panaga 11, Torres 8, Dolorito 6, Cheng 5, Musa 5, Austero 2, Ramos 2, Santillan 0, Borrero 0, Lim (L), Enclona (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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