The De La Salle University Lady Spikers swept the second round of the UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball Tournament after blanking their arch-rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles, 26-24, 25-17, 25-19, on Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
It was a seesaw battle in the third canto as the Lady Eagles looked to extend the match. But the top-seeded Lady Spikers thought otherwise, breaking through a close affair to win it in straight sets.
The protagonists traded points to start the game. Kat Tolentino hit one of her 15 points to make it a 6-all game. Third year Lady Spiker Tin Tiamzon connected on a down-the-line attack to bring La Salle up, 7-6. Desiree Cheng eventually sent it to the first technical timeout, 8-6. Coming off the break, La Salle pulled a 4-1 run to increase their cushion to four, 12-8. Ateneo answered with their own run, albeit slow, to cut the deficit to two, 15-13. With the Lady Spikers leading, 17-13, the Lady Eagles rallied four straight markers, capped by two Deanna Wong points, to tie it at 17-all.
Michelle Cobb blocked an entry from Ateneo to give La Salle a two-point lead, 20-18. Then, Cheng converted two straight points, one down-the-line attack and one block. That pull her team to within two points, 23-20. An ace from Cobb sent the Lady Spikers to set point, 24-20. However, the Lady Eagles once again rallied four consecutive points to tie and extend the frame. But, Jhoanna Maraguinot fumbled her service. Reigning MVP Majoy Baron capitalized on the error to finish the set, 26-24, in favor of the Lady Spikers.
In the second period, La Salle started even stronger, jumping off to a 4-0 lead after an ace from Cobb. Dy and Cheng added two more points to keep their team ahead. Tiamzon caught fire midway through the rally as the Taft-based squad mounted a 10-2 lead over the Katipunan-based squad. But, the latter were able to score three straight points to cut their deficit to six, 13-7, following back-to-back points from Tolentino and an error from Aduke Ogunsanya. Middle blocker Maddie Madayag completed the rally with an ace.
Wary of a shifting momentum, Coach Ramil de Jesus called a timeout as Ateneo were down only by five, 14-9. After the break, Julia Ipac scored down the line and ultimately sparked a 6-1 run that pushed La Salle’s lead to double digits, 20-10. Jules Samonte scored back-to-back points as the Lady Eagles tried to inch their way back to the game. However, their errors allowed the Lady Spikers to move closer to set point, eventually costing them Set 2, 25-17. Five-foot-four Cobb sealed it with one of her four blocks.
Just like their first encounter this season, the Green and White seemed out of focus in the third set. After keeping the set knotted heading into the first technical timeout, the Lady Spikers allowed the Lady Eagles to gain momentum and slowly pull away. Tolentino, Samonte, Maraguinot, and Madayag each contributed for the Blue and White as they turned a 7-8 lead into a 8-12 game. De Jesus once again burned a timeout to regroup the Lady Spikers, and it paid off quite easily. Despite still trailing at many times, though only one point, La Salle visibly started to come alive midway through the set. A service error from Madayag and a block tied it at 14-all.
Ipac, who continued her phenomenal showing off the bench, scored and initiated the first two points of another La Salle rally. Tiamzon checked a Lady Eagle before Dy scored an ace for an 18-15 lead. That also forced Ateneo coach Tai Bundit to call for time as momentum had clearly shifted to the defending champions. However, it did not help as the Season 80 first runners-up committed three errors that pulled La Salle to within four, 21-16. Tolentino scored off-the-block to trim as her team nonetheless attempted another rally to extend the match. A block from Ateneo cut La Salle’s lead down to four, 22-18. However, a 3-1 exchange by the protagonists, capped by Cheng’s attack gave La Salle the 25-19 set win and the 3-0 match victory.
Michelle Cobb, the Best Player of the Game, finished with seven points on four blocks and three serves. She also listed 24 excellent sets, 10 more than her Ateneo counterpart Deanna Wong, who finished with only 14. Kim Dy scored a team-high 13 points, while Desiree Cheng had 12. Tin Tiamzon was the only other Lady Spiker with double figures as she ended with 11 markers.
Kat Tolentino led her team with 15 points, while Jhoanna Maraguinot was limited to six.
With the victory, the Lady Spikers ended the elimination round at 12-2. Along with the sweep of the second round, they also extended their winning streak to eight, giving them a good momentum heading into the Final Four.
The DLSU Lady Spikers’ playoff campaign starts on Sunday, 4 PM at the same venue when they face the fourth-seeded NU Lady Bulldogs in Game 1 of the Final Four. The defending champions hold a twice-to-beat advantage.