There’s no holding back for the DLSU Lady Spikers as they book the first ticket to the finals, surviving the NU Lady Bulldogs in four sets 14-25, 26-24, 25-21 and 25-20, earlier today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the victory, the Lady Spikers successfully swept the UAAP elimination round with a 14-0 record, thereby securing an outright finals berth and a thrice-to-beat advantage. Season 75 co-MVP Ara Galang lifted the Lady Spikers with 15 points off 11 attacks and four blocks, and Abigail Marano chipped in another 13 points off 11 attacks, two blocks and a service ace.
It was a battle of exchanging points between the Lady Spikers and the Lady Bulldogs early in the first set as both squads rallied to bring the game to nine deadlocks. Dominated by sisters Dindin and Jaja Santiago, the Lady Bulldogs managed to keep off the Lady Spikers with their biggest lead at five, 14-19. La Salle struggled with their reception and floor defense which kept the momentum on NU’s side. Back-to-back service aces sealed the set for NU, bringing La Salle its second set loss of the season, 14-25.
In the second set, the Lady Spikers finally revived and got the right tone to open the set with an eight point lead at 9-1. Service aces from Kim Fajardo and attacks from Galang and Marano sparked the huge run of the Lady Spikers. Sustaining their offense and defense, La Salle held on to a five point lead at 19-14.
However, composure stayed with NU as they cut the lead to just one after scoring through a block from Myla Pablo. The two top teams took another rally to tie the game at 24-all. Two consecutive attacks by NU sailed wide, though, helping La Salle to bounce back in the second set, 26-24.
Errors and poor coverage from the Taft-based squad gave free points to their opponents, as they were left behind by as much as nine points early in the set.
Though the Lady Spikers were behind for almost the entire set, La Salle sought refuge to their own blocking and played a 9-1 run which finally shifted the lead to their favor at 20-18. Team Captain Marano maneuvered the Lady Spikers as they scored four straight points to end the set, 25-21.
The fourth set appeared to be a replay of the second as La Salle couldn’t safely manage their lead. Errors once again almost cost another set for the Lady Spikers as NU strived to stay alive with attacks from the Santiago sisters.
With La Salle hanging on to a seven-point lead, NU rallied to trim the deficit to just two, 21-19. But crucial errors from NU coupled with a well-timed attack from Mika Reyes finally sealed the game in favor of the Lady Spikers, 25-20.
With the victory, the Lady Spikers snapped NU’s 10-game winning streak which started after their first round loss against La Salle. The Lady Spikers also extended their game winning streak to 30 games, a feat which dates back to the previous UAAP season.
Lady Spikers head coach Ramil De Jesus commended NU for playing very well against his squad. According to him, it was the best game of the Lady Bulldogs that he has seen in the season so far. Despite struggling several times during the match due to fear and tension, De Jesus believed that they were lucky to have won the game. “Yung mga bata, siguro ayaw lang din magpatalo,” shares De Jesus.
De Jesus also mentioned that the traffic going to Araneta could be one of the factors that affected how La Salle played their game. They had to ride the LRT2 and take a long walk just to make it right on time for their game.
Armed with a thrice-to-beat edge, the Lady Spikers’ next game will already be in the finals. And because of La Salle’s 14-0 sweep, the team who will go up against the Lady Spikers will be determined through a step-ladder system instead of the usual final four format.