The DLSU Lady Spikers narrowly dropped a tough game against the UST Golden Tigresses in five sets, 24-26, 25-22, 27-25, 23-25, 12-15, earlier today, May 12, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU banked on the all-around performance of blue-chip rookie Alleiah Malaluan who posted her second triple-double of the season with a career-high 26 points, 22 excellent receives, and 18 excellent digs, which unfortunately went to naught. Three other players tallied a double-digit outing for the Lady Spikers: Thea Gagate with 12 points, Jolina Dela Cruz with 12, and Baby Jyne Soreño with 11.
From UST, Eya Laure recorded a triple-double of her own to match Malaluan’s output with 28 points, 20 excellent digs, and 19 excellent receives. Her explosive performance was complemented by three other Golden Tigresses who also came out in double digits: Ysa Jimenez with 13 points, Camille Victoria with 11, and KC Galdones with 11.
Today’s head-to-head match was one to watch as both teams were desperate for a win after losing their previous games. UST was first to draw blood with Victoria hitting a down-the-line attack, followed by an attack error. But Laure was quick to respond, scoring back-to-back points—a back row attack and a block—that put the Golden Tigresses up by two points early on in the first set, 1-3.
The first set was challenging for La Salle as they made errors—specifically net touch violations from Mereophe Sharma and Malaluan. But a momentum swing aided the Lady Spikers, with Soreño converting a service ace that gave the Taft-based squad a 4-0 counter run, 9-8. Long rallies transpired afterward, with both teams showcasing tremendous offense and defense. Golden Tigress Laure then ended a rally with a cross-court attack, tying the score at 16-all.
Despite the back-and-forth affair between both teams, UST’s desire to take the lead was shown by Laure via an off-the-block attack from the middle during a combination play, 22-21. La Salle tried to catch up, tying the game at 24-all, but the España-based squad managed to get ahead with a down-the-line and an off-the-block spike from Jimenez—capturing the win for the first set, 24-26.
The Golden Tigresses went on to maintain an early 8-4 lead after unleashing strong offensive plays to bring them to the first technical timeout. UST’s momentous run came from Jimenez’s three markers off two attacks and an ace. Both teams took turns exchanging points, but UST was able to keep a steady advantage until the 12-9 landmark of the second set.
It was until then that Malaluan and Soreño scored successive hits to inch closer, 12-11, sparking the beginning of a 10-3 run for the Lady Spikers. Laure quickly responded with a power spike that was returned by Malaluan’s solid hit off a rare combination play. The Lady Spikers then finally took the lead for the first time in the set, 13-12. After a consecutive exchange of errors by both teams and a Sharma block, the towering Gagate uncorked a power tip and a single block on Laure. Sharma then established her presence with back-to-back aces to extend the lead to 19-15.
UST then countered with a 5-1 run of their own to tie the match at 20-all. Dela Cruz immediately made an impact off the bench by converting a cross-court attack, 21-20. Two straight points off a UST error and a Gagate spike then stretched DLSU’s lead to three, 23-20. Galdones was quick to retaliate with a spike from an overreceive, but Gagate chipped in a quick attack to extend the lead and to get to set point, 24-21. The teams traded errors to close out the set in favor of the Lady Spikers, 25-22.
With hopes of gaining a cushion, DLSU started the third set on a high note, pulling off a successful attack and a block from Dela Cruz and Gagate, respectively, securing a 2-0 lead. On the other hand, UST boosted their defense against the Lady Spikers—receiving attacks from Malaluan and Sharma and leading to a joust won by UST in their attempt to surge forward despite La Salle’s 6-5 lead.
A service error from Jimenez gave the Lady Spikers a two-point lead, 12-10. However, UST troubled DLSU once again, with Balcorta tipping the ball over the towering Lady Spikers, challenging La Salle’s defense and tying the game at 12-all. Laure then rallied three consecutive points via service aces, securing a 15-12 lead for UST.
La Salle struggled to gain a rhythm against the España-based squad near the end of the third set. Despite having a short frontline for UST, left-handed spiker Mary Ecalla tied the score at 22-all and forced DLSU into a timeout. Dela Cruz converted an off-the-block hit in another attempt to close the set but Sharma committed a crucial service error, tying the game at 25-all. In the end, the Green-and-White persevered to close out the third set with three straight points from a Dela Cruz off-the-block hit and a block by Soreño, 27-25—giving DLSU a 2-1 set advantage.
Almost but not quite
Both teams kicked off the fourth frame with an entertaining exchange of attacks to start at 4-all—with the charge led by Malaluan, who had the hot hand throughout the game. UST then unloaded a 6-1 bomb courtesy of three attacks from Balcorta, two from Victoria, and a DLSU error, to start pulling away with a 5-10 lead.
Two straight UST errors and a single block by Dela Cruz ignited the start of an 8-2 run for the Lady Spikers, who inched closer, 8-10. DLSU then committed an error after an exchange of points between both teams, but an unexpected drop ball by the team’s libero, Justine Jazareno, stunned the opposing squad and put her team back in the game. Shortly after UST’s error, Malaluan scored consecutive points yet again off an overreceived ball and a down-the-line hit. La Salle then took the lead, 13-12.
It was a neck-and-neck affair until the game was tied at 21-all, with both teams trading points one after the other and preventing their opponents from running away with the set. Another costly error was committed by the Lady Spikers, followed by Laure’s towering block to give the Golden Tigresses a two-point lead, 21-23. A UST error gave DLSU the chance to inch closer, but Laure scored off a smart drop to bring her team at setpoint, 22-24. Sharma refused to give up and converted a quick play to cut the deficit to one, but Laure responded with an off-the-block hit to force a fifth set, 23-25.
Last woman standing
UST’s Galdones pulled off a running attack to begin the set, but Malaluan took advantage of the open spots and scored back-to-back points with a down-the-line and power hit through the UST blockers. Despite managing to create runs throughout the game, the Green-and-White struggled to knock the Golden Tigresses out of the match and failed to extend the lead by committing attack errors, 12-11. This led to a rotation with Laure returning to the frontline, who single handedly converted four consecutive points for UST in a 6-0 run and blazed the trail for the UST Golden Tigresses to complete a comeback and to snatch the game from the Lady Spikers, 12-15.
The DLSU Lady Spikers will have a chance at recovering from their losing spell in a clash against the UE Lady Warriors on Saturday, May 14, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU – Malaluan 26, Dela Cruz 12, Gagate 12, Soreño 11, Alba 1, Espina 3, Cruz 1, Jazareno 1, Coronel 0
UST – Laure 28, Jimenez 13, Galdones 11, Victoria 11, Balcorta 6, Ecalla 5, Tapia 4, Roldan 0, Mangulabnan 0
Set Scores – 24-26, 25-22, 27-25, 23-25, 12-15