For the first time since Season 73, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses head into the Final Four with a twice-to-beat advantage after blasting three-time defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers in a playoff for the second seed, 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
UST stifled La Salle early, with Sisi Rondina pounding attacks for a 21-11 lead. UST’s graduating captain was again key in the second set, tallying three kills in a run that gave her team a 24-18 lead. A flurry of errors from the Eya Laure and the Tigresses’ back line then opened the door for a 5-0 La Salle run. With the Lady Spikers threatening to force a deuce, the rookie Laure mustered an off-the-block kill that gave UST the two-set lead.
The third set was a closely-fought affair, with La Salle gaining a slim 19-17 lead after a Jolina Dela Cruz block and a UST net touch. La Salle fought hard to maintain the lead as UST kept going to their heavy-hitters. Rondina proved clutch, scoring back-to-back points and setting up a La Salle error that gave UST a 23-22 lead. Lourdes Clemente and Aduke Ogunsanya then responded with two kills of their own. Like the conclusion of the second set, Laure struggled to put away La Salle, giving up an error that extended the match.
Both teams battled to another close opening salvo in the fourth set until the Lady Spikers’ errors snowballed and gave UST all the momentum. Rondina was again spectacular, scoring for times in a run that created a 20-14 UST cushion. As MVP chants rained from the rafters, Rondina served an ace that gave UST a 24-19 lead. Laure finally found redemption with the game-winning kill.
“‘Yung laro nila parang pang-walang pasok bukas,” said UST head coach Kungfu Reyes.
“Sabi nga namin na malapit na kami doon sa goal namin, wala na tayong reason para hindi bumuhos. Kailangan pa namin manalo so hindi pa ‘to tapos,” he added.
The Tigresses last earned a twice-to-beat advantage in Season 73, the year Aiza Maizo and Rhea Dimaculangan led them to the Finals, only to fall short against La Salle.
Rookie Jolina Dela Cruz was the lone Lady Spiker in double-digits with 12 points. Veterans May Luna and Des Cheng were each held to nine points.
The Lady Spikers are in danger of having their 10-season Finals streak snapped. They last failed to make the championship round in Season 70, a year removed from their suspension in Season 69.
Both teams face off in the semis on Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
UST (3) – Rondina 29, Laure 17, Jimenez 8, Viray 7, Galdones 4, Bicar 3, Pacres 0, Roldan 0, Delerio (L), Rivera (L)
DLSU (1) – Dela Cruz 12, Cheng 9, Luna 9, Clemente 7, Ogunsanya 7, Cobb 3, Tiamzon 3, Alba 0, Ipac 0, Saga (L)