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UAAP: Lady Spikers stumble against Lady Falcons, fail to secure Final Four twice-to-beat advantage

The DLSU Lady Spikers fell short as they marked their second loss in round two after losing to the AdU Soaring Falcons in four sets, 23-25, 25-17, 16-25, 24-26, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena earlier today, June 9. 

The trio of Jolina Dela Cruz, Thea Gagate, and Alleiah Malaluan led the scoring for the Lady Spikers with 12 points each. Following their lead were Leila Cruz and Fifi Sharma who posted nine and seven points, respectively. Meanwhile, libero Justine Jazareno recorded 21 excellent digs.

On the other hand, AdU was ushered by top scorer Trisha Genesis, who tallied a game-high 20 points. Lucille Almonte and Aliah Marce also reached double digits, scoring 12 and 14 points, respectively. Louie Romero played a spectacular game as she converted 24 excellent sets for her team.

Disappointing start

The Lady Spikers broke off into a 3-0 run to start the game, giving credit to a Lady Falcons setting violation and a down-the-line attack from Dela Cruz, 3-0. L. Cruz and Gagate capitalized on the momentum from this run, highlighted by two quick attacks and capped by a L. Cruz spike which found its way to the middle of Adamson’s defense to secure a five-point advantage, 8-3, heading into the first technical timeout of the game.

Off the break, DLSU’s offense continued their hot start, a strong improvement from their openings in previous matches. L. Cruz once again led the charge with a service ace, 9-3.  However, it was not too late for the Lady Falcons, as they scored off back-to-back spikes and a service ace to inch closer to the Green and White, 14-9. The exchange of attacks continued until Gagate buried a quick play to mark a six-point La Salle lead, 16-10, entering the second technical timeout.

DLSU attempted to pull away from the first set, spearheaded by Gagate’s magnificent defense and L. Cruz’s barrage of hits, 19-14—forcing AdU head coach Lerma Giron to call a timeout. Adamson’s quick break proved to be effective as they trimmed La Salle’s lead to three through back-to-back spikes from Genesis and a DLSU attack error, 20-17. 

Since then, the momentum tipped in favor of the Lady Falcons while the Taft-based squad was plagued with errors at the latter half of the set. An attack violation by Malaluan broke the deadlock, 21-22. But this was followed immediately with consecutive attacks by the Lady Falcons, allowing them to arrive at set point, 21-24. Genesis then converted a spike to complete the comeback against and to snatch the first set away from the Lady Spikers, 23-25.

Adjusting their plays 

La Salle immediately responded after  committing a ton of errors during the opening set, as the Gagate-Dela Cruz tandem denied Adamson’s attacks—giving the Lady Spikers a comfortable 3-0 lead. However, Marce replied with a spike which caused Alba to misreceive the ball, 3-1. Despite the error, the captain of the Lady Spikers swiftly set up Cruz for a quick attack to give DLSU the lead, 6-2. Rookie standout Malaluan then broke through Adamson’s blockers, propelling her team ahead in the first technical timeout of the second set, 8-4.

Failing to regroup, AdU continued to commit unforced errors, with their rattled reception failing to keep up with DLSU’s fast pacing. Sharma then converted an over received ball and scored to extend the early set lead, 11-4.  L. Cruz continued her impressive performance by scoring back-to-back points off a quick attack and a service ace to give her team a favorable six-point lead, 13-7. Middle blocker Gagate joined the fray as she also scored back-to-back markers via a quick play heading into the second technical timeout, with DLSU holding a 16-7 advantage. 

After building a nine-point lead, La Salle suffered from poor floor defense as Adamson orchestrated a couple of nifty offensive plays to close the gap, 16-11. After the Lady Falcons went on a 4-0 run, DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus called for a crucial timeout. The break seemed to ignite the spark in veteran Dela Cruz as she scored against Adamson’s blockers to stop the run, 17-11. The Green and White flawlessly recovered with fewer errors, gaining a nine-point lead at set point after an AdU net touch violation, 24-15. Almonte attempted to extend the set with a crucial kill, but committed a service error right after—allowing DLSU to bag the second set and to tie up the match, 25-17. 

Lacking grit

Off of a commanding performance to tie up the game at 1-all, the Lady Spikers were toe-to-toe with Adamson at the start of the third frame. Genesis and Almonte executed heavy hits to carry AdU’s scoring load, 3-4. Meanwhile, Malaluan and L. Cruz countered with swings of their own, catching up to AdU’s continuous momentum. However, a series of attack errors by Dela Cruz hindered La Salle from overcoming Adamson’s lead, 6-8. 

DLSU’s defense appeared to be non-existent after the first technical timeout of the third set, with Genesis registering two spikes in a row to allow AdU’s lead to balloon to four, 6-10. DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus then utilized other players from his bench—bringing in setter Julia Coronel and opposite hitter Erika Santos to halt AdU’s momentum. But Genesis proved to be too much for the Green and White yet again, connecting hit after hit to increase AdU’s lead to five, 11-16.

After Adamson’s blazing run, La Salle could not stop the bleeding—with the Genesis-Almonte tandem dishing out consecutive spikes to pull away from the set. Santos and Sharma converted attacks to cut the deficit to six, 16-22. However, Genesis seemed unstoppable at this point, scoring down the middle to get Adamson to set point. Almonte then finished it off with a service ace to seal the crucial third set win for the team from Ermita, 16-25.

Late game collapse

With the Lady Spikers falling behind in the match, the fourth set opened with a long rally from both teams, which ended in a drop ball from Adamson’s Krich Macaslang, followed by Malaluan’s out-of-bounds spike. This gave the Lady Falcons an early head start, 2-0. The talented La Salle rookie then bounced back as she scored off a cross-court hit to tie the match at 3-all. Just like in the previous set, AdU had terrible reception errors, gifting DLSU with a two-point advantage, 7-5. Almonte then committed a service error to bring DLSU to an 8-6 lead in the fourth frame’s first technical timeout. 

After the timeout, both teams continued to fight for the lead, but the Genesis-Marce duo tied the match at 8-all through successful combination plays. The Taft-based team failed to convert their offensive plays due to Adamson’s intense net defense that halted Baby Jyne Soreño’s attack—giving the San Marcelino-based squad a 11-12 advantage. However, Malaluan and Gagate showcased their grit as they denied Genesis’ attack to tie the game again at 12-all. Maintaining their formidable net defense, DLSU’s Alba-Sharma tandem continued to thwart Adamson’s offensive plays before heading into the second technical timeout of the fourth set, 16-15. 

The Lady Spikers had hopes to pull away with another set win after an explosive spike from Malaluan propelled them into a two-point lead, 22-20. Despite gaining momentum, the Green and White were plagued with several attack and reception errors in the most crucial part of the match, ultimately giving up their lead due to errors from Gagate and Soreño, 22-all. Adamson veteran Genesis and outside hitter Almonte played a big role in their team’s offense as they broke through La Salle’s blockers to gain a 24-25 advantage, inching closer to a victory. Despite efforts to extend the match, Dela Cruz’s backrow attack went out of bounds, ending the game in four sets, 26-24. 

Despite the defeat, the DLSU Lady Spikers aim to bounce back in their upcoming matches in the Final Four of the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament.

With Adamson’s win, they aim to snatch a Final Four spot in the scenario that the UP Fighting Maroons beat the ADMU Blue Eagles at 6 pm later today, June 9.

The Scores: 

DLSU – Dela Cruz 12, Gagate 12, Malaluan 12, L. Cruz 9, Sharma 7, Soreño 4, Alba 3, Coronel 1, Espina 1, Santos 1, Larroza 0

AdU – Genesis 20, Almonte 14, Marce 12, R. Cruz 9, Romero 3, Toring 2, Lalongisip 0, Nuique 0, Yandoc 0

Set Scores: 23-25, 25-17, 16-25, 24-26

By Dayne Aduna

By Tana Melgar

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