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Women’s Beach Volley Day Five: Lady Tams march to Finals; Ateneo-La Salle rivalry rekindled

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Day Five of the UAAP Women’s Beach Volleyball Tournament was hectic, to say the least, with the end of the elimination round and the start of the Final Four happening simultaneously. The first match of the day determined that new champs will be crowned, there was a triple-tie in the standings, and Typhoon Lando’s heavy rain and winds gave the matches an extra layer of drama.

The DLSU Lady Spikers Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo kicked off the affairs with a rousing win over their tormentors last season, defending champions UST Tigresses’ Cherry Rondina and Rica Rivera, in three tight sets 19-21, 22-20, 16-14. Both teams took the same path to the match, losing earlier contests to foes they defated last year, then coming back with a win against Ateneo. Both sides came out aggressively, with the Tigresses getting ahead early through timely attacks. UST had control of the second set up until the end, when a few controversial calls went DLSU’s way, extending the match to a deciding frame. The squads traded points up until Cyd Demecillo served a clutch ace to end a duece and UST’s season.

FEU’s Bernadette Pons and Kyla Atienza easily handled AdU’s Mylene Paat and Gemma Galanza, 21-9, 21-14 in the following match; Ateneo’s Bea Tan and Alyssa Valdez ended the elimination round with a 21-6, 21-15 thrashing of UE’s Glaiza Bending and Judith Abil. The Final Four was decided: FEU topped the table with a 6-1 slate while Adamson, La Salle, and Ateneo occupied the middle at 5-2. Through the same quotient system used to break ties in the indoor tournament,  Adamson, who had the lowest quotient of the three, was relegated to the fourth seed, leaving Ateneo and DLSU to compete for the second seed and the twice-to-beat advantage in their Final Four series: a virtual best-of-three.

Not needing that advantage, first-seeded FEU’s Pons and Atienza barged into the Finals first, turning back the fourth-seeded AdU’s Mylene Paat and Gemma Galanza for the second time in the day, 21-13, 21-19. The Lady Tams did everything right against the Lady Falcons, loading up on their serves, defending diligently, and finding creative ways to attack. As she has all-tournament, Atienza proved to be the craftiest player on the court, utilizing a plethora of underhand returns and two-handed push shots off the first touch to frustrate the Lady Falcons. Pons also punished the Lady Falcons, guarding the net and finishing 1-2 plays

The day ended with FEU still without opposition in the Finals, as neither DLSU nor Ateneo budged in their clashes.

In their first match, the Lady Spikers’ Fajardo and Demecillo pounced on Ateneo’s Tan and Valdez, 21-16, 21-19 and claimed the twice-to-beat advantage. Working off their chemistry, Fajardo and Demecillo shared the scoring load, hitting their targets and varying their attacks to easily take the first set. The Lady Eagles seemed off their usual upbeat play, something that persisted into the second set. They mounted a comeback but their late errors gave the La Sallians an early advantage.

After nearly an hour and a half of delay due to a broken pulley on one of the net poles, the Lady Eagles pulled much-needed vitality in their do-or-die match. In what could have been their final game in UAAP beach volley, Bea Tan and Alyssa Valdez powered through the Lady Spikers, 21-16, 24-22. Looking much more energetic, Tan and Valdez hit as hard as they could, veering away from floaters and placements shots, and burying spikes left and right. The Lady Eagles nearly dropped the second set but errors from Cyd Demecillo gave them enough room to force another do-or-die battle.

On Wednesday, the Lady Eagles and Lady Spikers put an epic end to their rivalry, kicking the day off at 8 a.m. for a Finals spot.

In the day’s only match with no Final Four implications, UP’s Vina Alinas and Arielle Estranero ended their season positively, taking down NU’s Jaja Santiago and Jasmine Nabor 25-23, 21-18. Inconsistent throughout the entire tournament, the Lady Maroons used their speed and skills advantage over NU’s height advantage. Down by as much as five in the opening set, the Lady Maroons rallied back, pulling energy from their enthusiastic fans and the pounding drums of the UP Pep squad. Losing all their momentum, the Lady Bulldogs crashed in the second set.

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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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