Needing a win to keep their Final Four hopes alive, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons responded with a brilliant service game in a decisive four-set win over the National University Lady Bulldogs, 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Bulldogs, who opted for minimal use of their liberos in their previous win over league-leading Ateneo de Manila University, suffered greatly on reception against the league’s best serving team. The Lady Maroons ticked off 14 aces to NU’s eight. UP’s serving also left NU with just 25 attack points.
UP, however, collapsed twice in the match. The first came when they were leading 23-19 in the second set, only for NU to come roaring back and force a deuce. UP errors eventually gave the Lady Bulldogs their only set win of the match.
Their second misstep nearly turned into the most devastating turnaround of the season. Leading 20-11, UP’s reception suddenly disappeared and allowed NU to force a 20-all deadlock. UP, however, responded with slick floor defense which they used to transition into five of the next six points. UP had worn down the Lady Bulldogs by the fourth set, as the ladies from Katipunan cruised to a morale-boosting win.
“Hindi naman namin inisip na makabawi kami sa NU sa talo namin sa kanila. More on how they performed talaga kasi ‘yung last three games namin are very crucial para makapasok ng Final Four,” said UP assistant coach Rald Ricafort.
Veteran Kathy Bersola, and sophomores Isa Molde and Tots Carlos each provided 14 points for the Lady Maroons, while Aiesha Gannaban added 13.
UP improve their record to 7-5 to tie with the NU for the fourth seed. The Lady Maroons next play on April 2 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, when they take on the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses (7-4).
Jaja Santiago led NU with 18 points off 10 attacks, seven blocks, and an ace, while Aiko Urdas managed 12.
National U next take on the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws (5-6) on Saturday, also at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
UP (3) – Bersola 14, Carlos 14, Molde 14, Gannaban 13, Buitre 12, Estrañero 5, Cailing 0, Dorog (L)
NU (1) – Santiago 18, Urdas 12, Nabor 5, Paran 4, Singh 3, Doromal 2, Sato 2, Valdez (L)