Photo by: Jempoy Pimentel
The De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Spikers bowed out of the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball Tournament after losing anew to the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses in five sets, 19-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 10-15, earlier today at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
After falling early into a deep two-set deficit against the Tigresses, the Lady Spikers showed a massive 14,000 crowd the heart of a champion, climbing back up and forcing a deciding set. However, it was just not for them as they eventually surrendered the game, the campaign, and the ever-elusive four-peat chase.
With this defeat, the Taft-based squad also snapped their decade-long Finals appearances.
In what was seeming like a straight-set victory for the Golden Tigresses, head coach Ramil de Jesus shuffled his cards and found an ace in Julia Ipac. The fourth-year spiker immediately converted consecutive kill blocks that ignited a 7-0 run for La Salle, which handed them an 18-15 lead. There was no looking back for the Lady Spikers as the entire team caught fire, keeping them alive in the contention, 25-20.
The Taft-based squad jumped to a 4-1 advantage, before UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes called for time and the España-based squad closed the gap to one, 3-4. Since then, it was nip-and-tuck affair as no team wanted to concede a three-point advantage, until Ysa Jimenez hammered a free ball, and brought them in front by four, 16-12. La Salle attempted to fight back, but a lucky return by KC Galdones gave UST the first set.
It was a similar encounter in the second frame: La Salle leads at the beginning, then UST overtakes. Five service errors committed proved too costly for the Green-and-White as every time they tried to build momentum, the serve fault breaks it.
This time around, it was the Gold-and-White who had the advantage at the head of the fourth canto, 5-1, following a series of errors by DLSU. But, the latter immediately made up and tied the set at five apiece. It was a nail-biter since then, as both teams refused to wave the white flag, countering every run the opposing team produces. La Salle maintained a three-point cushion towards the end of the set, avoiding a collapse and forcing a decider, 25-23.
Every time the Lady Spikers attempted to fight back, UST seemed like they always have the antidote. The Golden Tigresses glided to a 3-0 lead and maintained at least a three-point margin since then. De Jesus brought back in veterans Tin Tiamzon and Michelle Cobb in hopes of changing the complexion of the game, but to no avail. La Salle got to as close as a point, 10-11, following a bullet by Aduke Ogunsanya off a free ball. However, that proved to be their last point for the season as UST ran away to take the set and the match, and book their first Finals appearance since Season 73.
Rookie Jolina Dela Cruz spearheaded La Salle’s offense with 12 points, followed by team captain Desiree Cheng and Ogunsanya with 10 each. Lourdes Clemente and Ipac each chipped in seven markers, while May Luna contributed six markers.
On the other hand, Eya Laure exploded for 25 points, while team captain Sisi Rondina had 17 of her own. Galdones added 11, while Caitlyn Viray scored 10 for her team.
Team captain Desiree Cheng leaves the Lady Spikers as part of the UAAP Seasons 79 and 80 champion teams. She was the Finals MVP in Season 79 and the league’s Best Server in Season 80. On the other hand, Lourdes Clemente maxes out her UAAP eligibility after having played her first four collegiate years for the UPHSD in the NCAA.
DLSU (2) 98 – Dela Cruz 12, Cheng 10, Ogunsanya 10, Clemente 7, Ipac 7, Luna 6, Tiamzon 4, Alba 1
UST (3) 108 – Laure 25, Rondina 17, Galdones 11, Viray 10, Jimenez 6, Bicar 5, Pacres 1