The DLSU Lady Spikers managed to extend their winning streak in three sets, 25-12, 25-19, 25-22, against the UE Lady Warriors earlier today, June 4, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. La Salle also clinched a Final Four berth with their ninth win in the second round.
Blazing the trail for DLSU were middle blocker Thea Gagate and rookie outside hitter Alleiah Malaluan who scored 12 points each from nine and 11 attacks, respectively. Also contributing were middle blocker Fifi Sharma and opposite hitter Leila Cruz, who both chipped in eight points apiece.
For the UE Lady Warriors, it was Ercae Nieva who carried the team with 12 attacks and seven excellent receptions. Team captain Rhea Manalo managed to pull off 10 points, while Janeca Lana registered five points.
The Lady Spikers showcased their offensive and defensive dominance early on in the match as Malaluan and Gagate collectively converted three spikes and a kill block, 4-2. However, UE responded with a 6-2 run—with Lana and Manalo scoring two points apiece, Nieva contributing with a spike, and DLSU committing an attack error—gaining a 6-8 advantage over the second-seeded Lady Spikers.
Coming off the first technical timeout of the opening set, Malaluan unloaded a service ace to tie the game at 8-all. Both teams went on to trade points until the 10-all mark, where the Green-and-White started a momentous 6-0 run off three errors from UE, two kill blocks, and one attack. Heading into the second technical timeout, the Lady Spikers held a six-point lead, 16-10.
After the quick break, Manalo successfully launched two off-the-block kills with hopes of starting a run for UE, 17-12. But the Lady Spikers uncorked a merciless 8-0 run, with four points coming from UE’s own unforced errors, two from Malaluan’s back-to-back cross-court spikes, and two from quick plays by Gagate and Sharma to close out the set in dominant fashion, 25-12.
A long rally between both teams started the second set, which was capped by Gagate’s quick hit to start a rhythm for the Lady Spikers, 1-0. Despite the Taft-based squad’s early signs of a dominant second set, UE’s Manalo was successful in challenging the Taft towers, converting a down-the-line spike to recover from her team’s previous attack error, 5-3.
As the Lady Spikers held an 8-5 advantage at the second set’s first technical timeout, DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus decided to change his rotation by bringing in Julia Coronel and Erika Santos. De Jesus’ strategy eventually worked as the substitutes immediately made an impact on the court. The Taft-based squad was able to convert four consecutive points—through a quick attack from Sharma and an excellent cross-court attack by Santos, forcing UE to call a timeout as La Salle led, 13-6.
Despite being conquered by the Lady Spikers for most of the match, the team from Sampaloc regained their footing with service aces from Villamor and Dimaculangan and with Espina failing to convert an attack, 17-10. This led DLSU to call their first timeout. To capture the set, Espina answered back with an attack off the block, 25-19.
The third frame was tightly contested as the Lady Warriors elevated their level of play with hopes of igniting a comeback against a dominant La Salle squad. Both teams made small runs to go into the first technical timeout with DLSU only up by one, 8-7.
The neck-and-neck set continued until the 10-all mark. But Cruz’s flawless attack sparked the beginning of the 5-0 spiking barrage of the Lady Spikers afterward, 15-11. Malaluan then unleashed a powerful cross-court hit to extend the lead heading into the second technical timeout of what would be the final set, 16-11.
UE then responded with a 6-3 run off of two points and four unforced errors committed by DLSU to cut the deficit down to two, 19-17, forcing the Green-and-White to call for a break. Malaluan and Gagate combined for three points in their return, but Nieva single-handedly countered with four attacks to bring UE closer at 22-21.
Leaving no room for the Lady Warriors to stretch their run, Malaluan launched a spike, which was quickly followed by an attacking error from the UE side—sending the Lady Spikers to match point, 24-21. Manalo then converted an off-the-block kill to save one match point, but Cruz answered back with one of her own to close out the frame and the game, 25-22.
DLSU coach Benson Bocboc detailed that the game exposed what his team could improve on as they approach the final stretch of the elimination round, “We got a 3-0 win for this but nagpakita ng depensa ang UE, hindi sila bumigay. May mga adjustments pa kami going into the next game.”
(UE showed impeccable defense and they did not give up. We still have adjustments to do going into the next game.)
Knowing that height is an asset for the Lady Spikers, Gagate expressed her thoughts for being given the chance to show her capabilities, “Very thankful ako especially sa teammates ko kasi binibigyan nila ako ng kumpyansa. Alam po namin na strength ‘yung sa middle kaya tinake advantage namin.”
(I am very thankful, especially to my teammates, for giving me the confidence I needed. We know that our middle blockers serve as the team’s strength, which is why we took advantage of that.)
The Lady Spikers are determined to strengthen their booming momentum as they battle against their archrivals, the ADMU Blue Eagles, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, June 7, at 4pm.
DLSU – Gagate 12, Malaluan 12, Sharma 8, Cruz 8, Espina 8, Alba 2, Santos 2
UE – Nieva 12, Manalo 10, Lana 5, Navarro 3, Villamor 1, Pelaga 1, Dimaculangan 1
Set Scores: 25-12, 25-19, 25-22