UAAP Final Four: Lady Spikers bow to Golden Tigresses in five sets, snap 10-year finals streak

Without a twice-to-beat advantage, the DLSU Lady Spikers collapsed unarmed in five grueling sets against the UST Golden Tigresses, 19-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-10, in their Final Four showdown earlier today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

As the Golden Tigresses ended the Lady Spikers’ 10-year Finals appearance streak, they will advance to the Finals for the first time since UAAP Season 73.

Golden Tigress rookie Ejiya Laure dropped a career-high 25 points, leading all scorers coupled by 17 points off 21 attacks, two aces, and . Team captain Sisi Rondina also boosted the Golden Tigresses with 17 points on 14 attacks, two aces, and one block. Kecelyn Galdones and Ysabel Jimenez also chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, for UST.

In the losing effort, Lady Spikers Jolina Dela Cruz and Aduke Ogunsanya registered 12 and 10 points, respectively. Graduating Lady Spiker and team captain Desiree Cheng pitched in 10 points, while fifth year transferee Des Clemente added seven points—the loss signals the end of the UAAP career of the two.

Out of fuel

The first set saw DLSU take an early lead as they recorded a 4-1 scoring run. However, Rondina fired up from the attack line, propelling UST to lead, 9-8. As both teams showed grit for every point from long rallies, the gap was kept close until UST moved away by four, 15-11. The deficit was cut by La Salle to two, 18-16, but their comeback was spoiled by Tiamzon’s double contact violation. The error also sparked the Golden Tigresses’ momentum to take the first set of the matchup, 25-19.

Excessive errors

In similar fashion, the Lady Spikers immediately took the lead in the second set, 5-3, but they fell prey to their own miscues giving away five consecutive points. Rondina’s heroics brought UST to a five-point advantage, 18-13. With the momentum on their side, the Golden Tigresses pulled off a 5-1 scoring run to take a two-to-nil set advantage over the team from Taft, 25-19.

Down but not out

With their four-peat opportunity and season on the line, La Salle opened the third set with more willpower. DLSU pressured UST at the net, forcing several errors, 7-4. The Golden Tigresses quickly bounced back to tie the set at 7-all, taking a four-point lead following an attack from Ysabel Jimenez, 15-11. Coming off the bench, Norielle Ipac sparked a 6-0 run, which saw her deny Golden Tigress Rondina twice at the net, to give the Green-and-White an 18-15 lead. The España-based squad tried to secure the match but the Taft-based squad capitalized on their offense and defense to take the third set, 25-20.

During the early portions of the fourth set, the Golden Tigresses attained an early advantage over the Lady Spikers. Although, after tying the game at 6-all, the fourth set saw a back and forth scoring run from the two teams. The Green-and-White and the Gold-and-Black both gave it their all throughout the fourth set. La Salle’s slim lead proved to be the deciding factor to force the match to a decisive fifth set, 25-23.

Coming up short

Entering this match, DLSU had yet to win a five-set matchup this season, and the team worked towards changing that. However, not wanting to extend the series to a do-or-die match on Wednesday, the UST Golden Tigresses took the lead over the Lady Spikers at the halfway point of the fifth set, 8-5. La Salle, not wanting to end their season on a low note, tried several times to tie the game. Although, back-to-back spikes from Laure sealed the match in the favor of UST, 15-10, and booked their ticket to the finals for the first time in eight years.

After the game, head coach Ramil De Jesus said, “Ang point ko kasi, every year humihina yung team pero mayroong player na willing mag-step up.  This time siguro medyo [late] kasi nabuo yung team namin kasi karamihan ng players ko galing sa injury.” De Jesus explained how these injuries caused the team to start training later than usual.. “So ayun, dumadating sa point na sa game makikita mo parang ‘di magkakakilala. Meron may mga lapses, tapos may mga ‘di ganun ka-fluid yung galaw. So parang yun ang siguro effect nung dahil late na magkasama-sama,” the head coach shared.

(There comes a time when you’d see the players don’t know each other. There are lapses and not so fluid movements. So maybe that’s the effect of the late formation of this team.)

In the end, the head coach explained that highs and lows come and go in volleyball as well. “Ganun talaga. Dumadating sa isang team yung pagna-reach mo na yung dulo, parang possible kang bumagsak. Pero hindi naman lahat ng panahon nandun ka sa taas.” De Jesus positively concluded his interview with a “babawi nalang kami sa susunod!”

(It’s really like that. There comes a time when a team reaches its peak, it’s possible to fall. It’s not all the time that you’re on top.)

(We’ll come back next season!)

The scores:

DLSU (98) – Dela Cruz 12, Cheng 10, Ogunsanya 10, Clemente 7, Ipac 7, Luna 6, Tiamzon 4, Alba 1, Cobb 0, Saga (L) 0

UST (108) – Laure 25, Rondina 17, Galdones 11, Viray 10, Jimenez 6, Bicar 5, Pacres 1, Rivera (L) 0, Delerio (L) 0

Arvin Abaniel

By Arvin Abaniel

Bench Peralta

By Bench Peralta

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