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Lady Spikers back to Final Four

Volleyball action hit the University of the East (UE)-Caloocan sand courts once more, Aug. 28, to kick-off the Beach Volleyball tournament for the 73rd Season of the UAAP. The DLSU Lady Spikers wrapped up the elimination round last Sept. 11 by clinching the fourth place and booking a ticket to the Final Four.

It is Lady Spikers Charleen Cruz, rookie Amanda Maria Villanueva and reserve Maria Mikaela Esperanza, snatching the last semis berth in the women’s division, undeterred by a mediocre 3-4 slate. The tandem will face-off in the semi-finals against the third seed in a step-ladder format after defending champions Adamson University Lady Falcons swept the eliminations.

Clawed by the Tigresses

The last day of eliminations, Sept. 11, was met with joy and sorrow as the Lady Spikers failed to finish their last day assignment but nevertheless qualified for the last Final Four slot.  University of Sto. Tomas’ (UST) Judy Ann Caballejo and Sarah Jane Gonzales repulsed the Cruz-Villanueva tandem in two contested sets 27-25, 21-18.

First set was already like a championship match extending to deuce points exchange until the 27 mark capped by a well-placed drop shot from Caballejo. Caballejo-Gonzales pair throbbed on the Taft-based duo’s lethargic play and lackluster performance in the second set stocking in seven consecutive points for an 18-13 lead.

An anti-climactic way to end the set with a reception error from Villanueva after a series of rousing exchange of points ended the set in favor of the Tigresses.

Bitten by the underdogs

Last Sept. 8, the bottom-feeding National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs pulled off the biggest upset in ousting DLSU in three sets. Just when everyone thought NU had enough of putting up spoiler victories, NU tandem hitter Mervic Mangui and indoor libero Jennelyn Reyes stunned Lady Spikers 21-12, 22-24, 14-16.

Coming into the match-up with a 0-5 slate, NU was definitely the underdog with the Lady Spikers coasting to an easy first set, but the Mangui-Soliven duo just cannot be underestimated as they reached set point first 20-18 before finally stealing the set to force a decider.

Momentum shifted to NU, and Mangui’s strong spikes were unstoppable backed up by Soliven’s scrappy defense and backcourt over-balls. DLSU Lady Spikers, tied at 14 apiece, committed four successive costly errors that gave away the first and only win of the Lady Bulldogs for this season.

Rivalry once more

Sept. 5 sparked another Lasalle-Ateneo clash, now in the sandcourts, with Charleen Cruz and Amanda Villanueva needing three tight sets to once again re-assert DLSU’s might over arch-nemesis Ateneo. The noted rivalry flagged another three-set thriller between the Lady Spikers dyad and Ateneo’s Sharahmae So and Asia Maris Urquico tandem, another Cantada Sports Tournament competitor.

Cruz and Villanueva struggled in executing plays and backcourt coverage but found a way to turn back stubborn Ateneo pair as they hackled out a rebound 18-21, 21-11, 15-8 win, sending Ateneo tumbling out of contention for a semifinals slot.

Lady Spikers dropped the opening set and made a huge comeback in the second frame, even piling up a 10-0 early lead before an attacking error straight to the net for the fancy first point of Ateneo. While the Urquico-So duo labored on reception errors and misplaced drop shots, the Centennial-squad decoyed with Villanueva and set up second hit plays for Cruz, ending the set with a backcourt over-ball.

No homecourt advantage for Lady Amazons

Inspired by their first win, DLSU beach volleybelles dished out a near-flawless performance against the UE Amazons in two swift sets. The Recto-based Squad’s beach volleyball experts Jessica Cristia Paron and Krysel Alexandra Nicole Cueva, consistent Cantada Sports Tournament contenders, lacked the court edge against the Cruz-Villanueva pair in 21-16, 21-19 rout.

The UE pair losing the cheers and composure in the latter parts of each set became the second victim of the Lady Spikers for a 2-2 card.

Lady Spikers snap losing skid

Hungry for their first win, the Lady Spikers thwarted title-contender Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamarraws in their Sept. 1 meeting.

What a way of redeeming oneself after Cruz and Villanueva endured a three-setter series against 2010 Petron Ladies Beach Volleyball champion FEU’s Shaira Gonzales and Shedd dela Peña.

The Taft-based pair pounced on the Tamarraws’ inconsistency and neutralized Gonzales, who led the FEU beach volleyball squad to the championship last 2007, throughout the match, which ended at  21-19, 17-21, 16-14.

Struggling with its floor defense and reception, Lady Spikers were troubled by multitudinous offensive errors capped by a service error. In the brink of their first win, Cruz-Villanueva pair scored in every creative way possible, extending the third frame to a 15-all deuce and grabbing their sweet first victory finished off by a tough serve by Villanueva.

Lady Maroons obliterate Lady Spikers

Beach volleyball second game, Aug. 29, denied wins for the Lady Spikers as they surrendered in two sets to University of the Philippines (UP). Continuing the losing woes of the Cruz-Villanueva duo, UP’s Pauline May Genido and Ana Maria del Mundo bested the Taft-based Spikers in another two-setter game.

The combination of the intense play of UP’s indoor volleyball libero del Mundo and net defense of Genido proved to be too much for the Lady Spikers tallying only six points in the first set, 21-6. The Taft-based pair however tried to bounce back forcing several deadlocks for a much tighter second tiff despite collapsing to service errors and attacking lapses in the home stretch, 21-11.

Lady Spikers trapped in early sands

The Green-and-White squad posted opposite results in the first day salvo with Green Spikers coming off a comeback victory over NU and Adamson, Aug. 28.

The Lady Spikers tandem sorely missed their first game target as the defending champion Falcons, led by reigning Most Valuable Player Angela Benting teamed up with middle-hitter Maria Paulina Soriano to win, 9-21, 21-23. The Benting-Soriano duo played smart volleyball, capitalizing on the shorter Amanda Villanueva and focusing their offense on her side of the sand court throughout the match.

By The LaSallian

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