University of Santo Tomas held off Far Eastern University’s strong comeback in the fourth set as they secured a 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23 victory to advance to the finals in the men’s division of the 2023 V-League Collegiate Challenge on Friday at Paco Arena.
Wing spikers Josh Ybañez, Emman Dedoroy, and Gboy De Vega delivered three consecutive kills to break a 22-all tie in the fourth set and thwart the Tamaraws’ attempt to force a decider, keeping their finals hopes alive.
“Thank you kay Lord na nakarating kami rito kahit nung third set nag-relax ‘yung mga bata. Pero at least nung fourth set, naibalik ‘yung composure nila,” said UST coach Benjamin Mape, whose team also defeated the FEU side, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22, in the series opener last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, De La Salle University finally triumphed over arch-rival Ateneo, securing a 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 victory later in the night, forcing a decisive rubber match for the other finals spot.
The surprising straight-set win not only ended the Blue Eagles’ five-match winning streak, including their last two against the Green Spikers but also reignited the latter’s hopes of reaching the championship.
Noel Kampton contributed 26 points with 23 attacks, one block, and two aces in the action-packed one-hour-30-minute match, along with 17 excellent receptions. Former captain Vince Maglinao started the game and produced 15 markers.
“Gaya lang ng nabanggit ko sa team kanina bago kami nag-start ng game, sinabi ko na, let’s try to extend it, baka sakaling meron pa,” said La Salle coach Jose Roque. “Sobrang importante nito for the team na makabangon.”
Amil Pacinio led the charge for the Blue Eagles, who, however, struggled with their service reception, resulting in five aces for De La Salle.
La Salle and Ateneo will battle for the final finals berth tomorrow.
In the earlier UST-FEU clash, Ybañez capped his outstanding performance with 28 points from 25 attacks, two blocks, and an ace, along with seven excellent digs and 27 excellent receptions. De Vega, on the other hand, finished with 18 markers, while Rainier Flor contributed 11 points for UST, which advanced to its second consecutive finals appearance.
Jomel Codilla scored 16 points, while Dryx Saavedra finished with 14 markers for the Tamaraws, who will now compete for the bronze medal.