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UAAP: Lady Spikers complete comeback win against archrival Blue Eagles in five-game thriller

The DLSU Lady Spikers now hold a five-game winning streak after defeating archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles in five thrilling sets, 19-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena earlier today, June 7.

Alleiah Malaluan and Baby Jyne Soreño carried the scoring for the Lady Spikers as they both posted 17 points. Complementing their performance were Jolina Dela Cruz and Thea Gagate who converted 12 and 14 markers, respectively. From behind the lines, team captain Marionne Alba posted 22 excellent sets to lead four Lady Spikers to double digits in scoring.

For the ADMU Blue Eagles, it was superstar Faith Niperos who carried her team with 29 points and 15 excellent receptions, followed by Erika Raagas who recorded 14 spikes and two blocks. Team captain and libero Dani Ravena had 18 excellent digs, while Vanessa Gandler contributed 10 points and 11 excellent digs. 

Faulty beginning 

The Lady Spikers opened up the match with signs of having retained their momentum from the last few games as they easily scored against their archrivals with a service ace from team captain Alba, 1-0. This was followed by a spike from Jolina Dela Cruz—giving DLSU a 2-0 lead. However, Ateneo standout Nisperos answered back by powering through DLSU’s blockers. After a setting error from Alba, the game was tied at 2-all. The Green and White then responded through Malaluan’s back-to-back successful cross-court attacks, giving them a 5-4 lead. Ateneo middle blocker AC Miner then executed a running attack to keep her team ahead in the first technical timeout of the opening set, 8-7. 

Off the timeout, the Blue Eagles started building a lead, with Raagas scoring off a cross-court attack, 12-9. The Taft-based squad failed to immediately recover from numerous reception and attack errors. Another Alba error brought Ateneo to the second technical timeout with a five-point lead, 16-11. Attempting to close the gap, La Salle middle blocker Fifi Sharma connected with Alba for a quick hit to cut ADMU’s lead down to four, 20-16. But DLSU failed to contain Gandler’s spikes, with the veteran scoring another cross-court hit to put Ateneo at set point, 24-18. Despite trailing, Soreño attempted to save the set with her precise attack over Ateneo’s blockers, 24-19. However, Miner quickly sealed the deal for Ateneo with a running attack, 25-19, giving her team a 1-0 set advantage. 

Cutting it close

After a dismal offensive display in the first set, the Lady Spikers sought out to summon all the firepower they had. The Green and White immediately burst into a 2-0 lead commanded by an Alba tip-in and a spike from Gagate. At this point, La Salle was back to their usual form as consecutive hits from Gagate and Soreño allowed DLSU’s lead to balloon to four, 6-2. However, the Blue Eagles showed resilience in combating DLSU’s rally as the Miner-Nisperos tag team capitalized on DLSU’s lackluster defense to trim the lead to one, 8-7, heading into the first technical timeout of the second set. 

Following the break, both teams went neck and neck as Soreño and Nisperos exchanged powerful hits, until consecutive attack errors and a net touch violation by Ateneo ended the standstill, 14-11. Malaluan then held the reins of La Salle’s offense to hit a spike off the block​​—giving DLSU a four-point advantage heading into the second technical timeout, 16-12.

As the offensive rhythm shifted back to the Lady Spikers, the team from Katipunan had difficulties in executing their attacks due to Alba and Gagate’s high hands anchoring La Salle’s defense at the net. Since then, DLSU pulled away with the lead—capped off by a Gagate block—to secure the second-set win, 25-18.

Rattled reception 

The Lady Spikers opened the third set with an attack executed by Dela Cruz—who scored off Ateneo’s blockers. But the Blue Eagles were able to block Malaluan’s attacks to take the lead early on, 5-4. The Gandler-Nisperos offensive tandem carried Ateneo to the first technical timeout with a three-point advantage, 8-5. 

After the Atenean surge, the Green and White recovered from their errors, with Sharma registering a solid block against ADMU outside hitter Nisperos. Still, the Lady Spikers trailed by three, 6-9. After a fair exchange of blows, Soreño bagged back-to-back points, successfully cutting down the lead to one, 11-12. Both teams valiantly continued to challenge each other on both ends until Soreño’s attack failed to go over the net, bringing the Blue Eagles into the second technical timeout with a two-point advantage, 14-16. 

With the Lady Spikers still unable to utilize their middle blockers, Raagas halted a quick attack from DLSU’s Gagate, 17-20. DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus instantly called a timeout in an attempt to regroup his team. However, Malaluan committed an attack error right after—allowing the Blue Eagles to pull away, 17-21. A crucial combination play from Maraguinot and Gandler successfully put Ateneo at set point, 19-24. This was followed by a powerful hit from Gandler, allowing the Blue Eagles to take the third set, 25-20.

Ripping the wings off

DLSU kicked off the fourth set on a high note, with Gagate and Soreño burying successive attacks to lock down on a 4-2 lead. Nisperos attempted to thwart La Salle’s run, but was brought to naught as four unanswered hits from the trio of Malaluan, Gagate, and Sharma were too much for the Blue Eagles, 8-4. 

As La Salle held on to a five-point lead at the first technical timeout of the fourth frame, team captain Alba successfully dictated DLSU’s offense—with the duo of Malaluan and Dela Cruz converting three consecutive hits via a down-the-middle spike and back-to-back cross-court attacks, 12-5. The Lady Spikers were in control at this point in the fourth set. A successful tip by Alba and a Dela Cruz spike extended the Lady Spikers’ lead to nine, 16-7, as they entered the second technical timeout. 

Banking on a comfortable lead, Sharma then converted a hit from the middle, 22-15, with the Lady Spikers looking to close out the set. However, Nisperos suddenly barraged DLSU with four consecutive spikes to cut the deficit to four, 23-19. But just when the feisty Blue Eagles showed signs of coming back from an insurmountable lead, Gagate responded with a quick attack to take the fourth frame and to force a deciding set, 25-20.

Cardiac finish 

Attempting to keep the momentum on their side, the Lady Spikers started the final set with a 4-1 lead as Malaluan converted back-to-back points, highlighted by a cross-court attack that rattled ADMU’s floor defense. However, Ateneo responded by shutting down Gagate’s quick play. Nisperos’ cross-court hit then tied the game at 5-all. But Sharma showed dominance in the middle as her crucial quick attack gave the Green and White a one-point advantage, 8-7. 

Gagate and Soreño also ignited the La Salle faithful with a down-the-line spike and a block, but this was immediately followed by a Nisperos cannonball to make it a one-point DLSU advantage, 11-10. Soreño answered back with a cross-court hit with hopes of starting a run. A net touch violation succeeded Nisperos’ attack, bringing La Salle to set point, 14-10. After ADMU attempted a comeback, Soreño then iced the game with a quick attack to win in their second five-setter in Season 84, 15-12.

DLSU coach Benson Bocboc shared that the match was highly anticipated, “Hindi madali ‘yung pinagdaanan, kasi ‘yung Ateneo mainit din. Bawat puntos pinaghirapan. We [didn’t] know sino kukuha [ng set] ‘pag pumatak ng 20 ‘yung score. ‘Yung hard work ng bawat isa nag-pay off.” 

(What we went through was difficult because Ateneo was driven. We worked for every single point. We didn’t know who would win the set when the score hit 20. Each player’s hard work paid off.)

The Lady Spikers hope to extend their winning streak and to claim a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four as they face off against the Adamson Lady Falcons for their final game in the eliminations at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday, June 9, at 12:30 pm.

The Scores

DLSU – Soreño 17, Malaluan 17, Dela Cruz 14, Gagate 12, Sharma 7, Alba 5, Cruz 2, Coronel 0, Larroza 0

ADMU – Nisperos 29, Raagas 17, Gandler 10, Miner 8, Maraguinot 3, Narit 3, De Guzman 1, Fujimoto 1, Cruz 0, Delos Reyes 0, Ildefonso 0 

Set Scores: 19-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12

By Dayne Aduna

By Tana Melgar

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