Top two seeds University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo de Manila University are one win away from setting up a finals clash in the 2023 V-League Men’s Collegiate Challenge.
Top-seeded Golden Spikers averted a slot start, fending off Far Eastern University in four sets, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22, while earlier in the day, second-ranked Blue Eagles outlasted De La Salle University in five, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 14-25, 15-11, on Wednesday at Paco Arena.
UST and Ateneo can clinch their final tickets on Friday at the same venue.
With the Tamaraws closely trailing at 22-all, the Golden Spikers secured three consecutive points: a backrow kill from Josh Ybañez, a service ace from Ichi Yamanaka, and a block from Paul Colinares, effectively ending the nearly two-hour contest.
“Stick to the system, remain patient, and stay disciplined,” acting head coach Benjamin Mape conveyed what head coach Odjie Mamon had instructed the team before departing for national squad duties in China.
“Stay with the system pa rin and at the same time ensayo pa rin para sa Game 2. Hindi pa tapos ang laban,” he added.
GBoy De Vega epitomized UST’s performance as the outside hitter regained composure, rectifying his own mistakes and contributing 18 points, with 14 from successful attacks and four from crucial blocks.
Ybañez led with 21 points, including the pivotal spike in the closing moments.
This marks the Golden Spikers’ seventh consecutive victory.
Meanwhile, the Blue Eagles kept their composure and used their defensive hustle coming off a tough fourth-set loss to frustrate the Green Spikers with Jian Salarzon and Jet Gopio delivering back-to-back kill blocks to pound out the victory in the tense-filed two-hour long encounter of bitter school rivals.
“Yung composure nila lumabas, especially coming from a bad fourth set. And then, we closed out the fifth set ng medyo maayos. Despite na may early lead kami na hinabol, they were able to refocus and compose themselves para makuha yung panalo” said Ateneo head coach Timothy Sto. Tomas.
Salarzon took another Best Player of the Game honors after leading Ateneo’s assault with 24 points on 20 attacks and four blocks, including a kill that put the Blue Eagles at match point.
Amil Pacinio added 20 markers, three of them also coming at the net, as the Blue Eagles, who also beat the Green Spikers, 25-17, 26-24, 25-15, in the elims, finished with 13 blocks.
La Salle actually matched that 13-block output, including six from JM Ronquillo, who went on to fire 26 points. Noel Kampton bounced back after a dismal game and scored 17 points.
Dryx Saavedra matched Ybañez’s total with 21 points, all of which came from successful attacks, to keep the Tamaraws in the contest, while Andrei Delicana added 15 points in their valiant effort.