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UAAP: Lady Spikers sweep Blue Eagles in Final Four encounter, book Finals matchup against undefeated Lady Bulldogs

In a highly anticipated Final Four match, the DLSU Lady Spikers defeated archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles in straight sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena earlier today, June 16. The win allowed the Green and White to enter the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals for the first time since 2018.

Star rookie Alleiah Malaluan spearheaded the charge once again with 16 points from 15 attacks and a service ace. Thea Gagate and Jolina Dela Cruz also chipped in with 13 markers apiece, while team captain Marionne Alba tallied 19 excellent sets.

In a losing effort, Faith Nisperos led all Ateneo scorers with 19 points off 17 attacks and two aces. Erika Raagas added nine of her own, while Jaja Maraguinot provided 13 excellent sets.

Impeccable defense

The Lady Spikers and the Blue Eagles began the game in a nip-and-tuck affair, but Malaluan’s down-the-line attack gave DLSU their first lead of the game, 4-3. The Katipunan-based squad then bounced back via a Nisperos cross-court attack to allow Ateneo to build an early advantage by the first set’s first technical timeout, 6-8.

Atenean setter Jaja Maraguinot then served up an ace, forcing DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus to call an early timeout with ADMU in control, 7-10. After the ceasefire, La Salle sliced the lead with Dela Cruz’s points at the service line, serving two successive aces to pull ahead, 11-10. The run continued as the Lady Spikers held the lead heading into the second technical timeout of the first set, 16-13.

After the break, the Lady Spikers had fantastic blocking and floor defense, successfully stifling Nisperos at the net numerous times. With Fifi Sharma’s towering block, followed by an Ateneo attack error, DLSU garnered a comfortable five-point edge late in the first set, 20-15. ADMU head coach Oliver Almadro was forced to call his final timeout of the set, but that failed to thwart DLSU’s surge. Dela Cruz’s attack through both ADMU blockers and Gagate’s solo block on Nisperos gave DLSU a 23-17 lead.  La Salle then capped the opening set with Gagate’s tremendous blocking and serving as she led the Lady Spikers to start on the right foot, 25-19.

Weathering the storm

After a steady display in the opening set, the Lady Spikers looked to maintain their momentous offense in the second set. However, with their season on the line, the Blue Eagles quickly established a three-point lead through great defense against La Salle’s attacks, 1-4. Continuing her stellar rookie campaign, Malaluan answered back for DLSU with three consecutive attack points to cut the deficit to one, 3-4. Veteran Dela Cruz then found the gap between Ateneo’s blockers to tie the game at 6-all. With ADMU lurking around DLSU’s lead, Sharma converted a quick kill down the middle to give the Lady Spikers an 8-7 advantage going into the first technical timeout of the second set.

Off the timeout, DLSU maintained their momentum by building a 13-9 lead through blocks from Cruz and Gagate. But this was quickly answered by Ateneo’s ability to capitalize on La Salle’s errors. Dela Cruz and Gagate’s errors trimmed the Green and White’s advantage to two, 15-13. However, Sharma responded with an emphatic quick kill down the middle to give La Salle a 16-13 lead at the second frame’s second technical timeout.

Despite Nisperos’ efforts to rally the Blue Eagles with two straight attacks, 17-15, the Lady Spikers kept their poise—countering every Ateneo run with a cross-court hit from Malaluan and a down-the-line spike from Dela Cruz. Nisperos and Lyann De Guzman tried to weather the DLSU storm with points off the blockers, 22-20. However, Sharma finished the deal for her team with two of the last three points off quick kills, 25-20. After the second frame, the Lady Spikers took a commanding hold on the game, up two sets to none.

Barging into the Finals

The final set began similarly to the opening frame with the Lady Spikers failing to control the Blue Eagles. The team from Katipunan continued to fight for their season as they converted points from the spiking department. But Dela Cruz and Malaluan scored the last three points for the Green and White off a combination play, going into the first technical timeout of what would be the last set, 8-6.

Even after the timeout, the Lady Spikers’ offensive schemes were in full effect, led by Alba flying through for a spike on a second ball, 10-8. This was followed by Gagate’s powerful spike through the middle, which forced the Blue Eagles to regroup. DLSU held an 11-8 advantage off the Ateneo timeout, but this lead grew to as big as five via a Dela Cruz service ace, 14-9. After Vanie Gandler’s attack sailed out, the Lady Spikers were at a comfortable 16-13 edge come the final set’s second technical timeout.

The Green and White were just three points away from clinching the match, but the resilient Blue Eagles were not going down without a fight. Sharma’s attack through the middle put them up, 22-15. But Nisperos continued to carry Ateneo, scoring three consecutive points to cut the La Salle lead to four, 22-18. Raagas’ drop ball and then powerful attack through the La Salle block put the Blue Eagles at a precarious point, 24-23. But as the Ateneo faithful were on their feet, Malaluan wrapped up the contest with a sharp spike off both Blue Eagles to seal the victory and to give the Lady Spikers the sought after  Season 84 Finals berth, 25-23. 

DLSU assistant coach Benson Bocboc cited the squad’s preparation as the key to the victory, “Coming into this game, lahat naman ay prepared to counter whatever na ilalabas ng Ateneo against us—[whether it’s] serving, attacking, [or] defense.”

(Coming into this game, everyone was prepared to counter whatever Ateneo throws at us—whether it’s serving, attacking, or defense.)

Despite the victory, Malaluan is yet to be fully satisfied, “Entering the Finals, [ang] mindset ko is dapat hindi pa tapos ‘yung season, so kailangan talaga namin mag-work hard for the ates and coaches, and sa mga people na nag-susupport sa’min, and also sa Lasallian community .”

(Entering the Finals, my mindset is that the season is not supposed to be over yet so we need to work hard for the seniors and the coaches, and for the people who support us, especially the Lasallian community.)

The DLSU Lady Spikers only have two days to prepare for Game 1 of the UAAP Season 84 Women’s Volleyball Finals as they go up against the undefeated NU Lady Bulldogs at 5 pm on June 18, Saturday, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores: 

DLSU – Malaluan 16, Gagate 13, Dela Cruz 13, Sharma 8, Cruz 6, Alba 1, Coronel 1, Larroza 0, Soreño 0

ADMU – Nisperos 19, Raagas 9, Miner 6, Gandler 4, De Guzman 3, Narit 3, Maraguinot 2, Cruz 1, Delos Reyes 1

Set Scores – 25-19, 25-20, 25-23

By Diego Vergel de Dios

By Aren Reyes

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