The DLSU Lady Spikers suffered a tough loss in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 84 Volleyball Finals after getting drubbed by the still-undefeated NU Lady Bulldogs in straight sets, 20-25, 12-25, 21-25, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena earlier tonight, June 18.
Despite the losing effort, Leila Cruz posted six points to lead the scoring for DLSU. Fifi Sharma, Alleiah Malaluan, and Jolina Dela Cruz also posted five markers each. Team captain Marionne Alba registered 14 excellent sets, while libero Justine Jazareno tallied seven excellent digs.
On the other hand, player of the game Bella Belen and rookie standout Alyssa Solomon ushered the Lady Bulldogs to continue their undefeated streak this season, with the duo recording 15 points apiece. Middle blocker Ivy Lacsina and team captain Ces Robles also scored double-digits with 12 points each. Camilla Lamina also played a spectacular game as she made 20 excellent sets for her team.
The opening set saw the Lady Spikers take the lead with back-to-back points scored by Cruz to gain an early 4-2 advantage. Unfortunately for the Green and White, the undefeated Lady Bulldogs remained steadfast and took over the reins from DLSU. Lacsina gave the Taft-based squad trouble on offense and defense after registering kills and a block to ultimately gain the lead, 5-6. La Salle’s floor defense was overwhelmed by the aggression shown by the Lady Bulldogs, along with points conceded from numerous errors.
Continuing to keep NU ahead was the Lacsina-Belen tandem who punished the Lady Spikers’ floor defense as they took turns attacking gaps and growing their lead, 7-11. Of the points scored, two service aces were awarded to the tandem—a testament to the defensive struggles of the Green and White. This was followed by a momentous attack from Robles which brought her team to a commanding four-point advantage, 13-9. Trying to gain momentum for the Lady Spikers, opposite hitter Cruz was shut down by a solid block from Belen—which gave NU a five-point lead, 9-14.
Following Malaluan’s kill off a check ball, the Lady Bulldogs committed consecutive errors which cut down their lead, 16-21. Coming off the bench, Baby Jyne Soreño also contributed to the Lady Spikers’ effort with her aggressive attacks and confident blocks. Eager to help her team, Dela Cruz committed an overreaching violation, which set back the Lady Spikers’ comeback campaign, 17-22.
With the Sampaloc-based squad approaching set point, Malaluan and Soreño kept their heads up and unleashed a barrage of attacks to stay in the game via off-the-block hits, 19-23. But the team from Taft ultimately lost their grip on the set after Sheena Toring’s quick hit from the middle and Robles’ down-the-line spike, 20-25.
In an attempt to recover from dropping a lead in the previous set, the Lady Spikers started the second set with an effective cross-court spike from Dela Cruz, 2-1. After an exchange of blows, La Salle still conceded points off their poor reception. NU middle blocker Lacsina converted an overreceived ball by the Green and White, giving the Lady Bulldogs a two-point advantage, 3-5. Despite gaining rhythm on the offensive end, NU committed a service error and a setting error, allowing La Salle to hold on as they trailed, 5-7. However, DLSU failed to capitalize on this opportunity, as a net touch violation from Malaluan allowed NU to hold a 5-8 advantage heading into the first technical timeout of the second set.
Off the timeout, a net touch from Toring trimmed the NU lead to two, 6-8. However, NU captain Robles was quick to respond, unleashing an explosive spike that was too much for Jazareno to receive, 6-9. Unable to regroup from NU’s barrage, Lady Spiker veteran Dela Cruz suffered from back-to-back errors, widening La Salle’s deficit to five points, 12-7. Fresh from the bench, rookie setter Jules Tolentino stopped the bleeding for DLSU and converted a cheeky feint ball, 8-15. However, rising NU star Belen broke through La Salle’s blockers with a down-the-line attack, leading her team to collect a 9-16 advantage ahead of the second technical timeout.
Off the break, the Lady Bulldogs maintained their steady net defense as Lacsina rejected Erika Santos’ spike while Robles performed a solid block against Cruz, allowing NU to hold an 11-point advantage, 11-22. The Lady Spikers failed to close the double-digit lead as Lacsina blocked another quick attack from Sharma, granting NU the chance to pull away even further in the second set, 11-23. Lady Spiker super rookie Malaluan then spotted a donut hole in the back row of the court and scored in an attempt to muster up points for the Green and White, 12-23. Denying the Lady Spikers any access to momentum, Belen ended the second frame with a commanding spike, 12-25.
Too little, too late
In a last ditch effort to push the match to extra sets, the Lady Spikers went shot for shot against the undefeated top-seeded squad from Sampaloc in what would be the final frame. Malaluan tied the set early with a down-the-line spike, 5-all, but the NU squad quickly countered with three straight points before heading into the technical timeout, 5-8. As the Lady Spikers trailed off the timeout, veteran Dela Cruz attempted to spur her team’s offense, but the Lady Bulldogs continued to showcase exceptional defensive coverage, denying any chance at a comeback from the second-seeded La Salle squad.
With the game on the line, Cruz stepped up to the plate and persistently pressured the NU blockers—spiking through the block, 11-13. But Solomon and Belen continued their spectacular game, scoring off powerful hits to bring their team ahead by the third set’s second technical timeout, 12-16.
Coming from the timeout, Sharma confused NU’s blockers as she scored off a quick play to cut down the NU lead to three, 13-16. With La Salle unable to recover from their poor floor defense and reception, Belen forced a facial on Malaluan, 13-17. Toward the end of the third set and after a swift hit from Toring, the Lady Spikers attempted to regroup as head coach Ramil de Jesus called for a timeout. After the break, Gagate then found a gap between NU’s blockers, cutting the lead down to three, 18-21. After a crucial rally between both teams, the Lady Spikers adjusted to the fast plays of the Lady Bulldogs—blocking Solomon, 20-22. However, the super rookie displayed dominance. She made quick work of DLSU’s defense, posting consecutive points which brought her team to match point, 21-24. Belen eventually ended the game, 21-25, and gave the Lady Bulldogs the first win in the best-of-three games Finals series.
Looking to rebound from the sweep, the Lady Spikers will return to the court on Tuesday, June 21, at 6:30 pm after the awarding ceremonies at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU – Cruz 6, Sharma 5, Malaluan 5, Dela Cruz 5, Gagate 3, Soreño 3, Tolentino 1, Santos 0, Coronel 0, Alba 0
NU – Belen 15, Solomon 15, Robles 12, Lacsina 12, Toring 7, Lamina 1, Pangilinan 0, Cal 0, Cagande 0