The DLSU Lady Spikers suffered a hard-fought drubbing in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 84 Volleyball Finals, losing the championship title to the undefeated NU Lady Bulldogs in three sets, 15-25, 15-25, 22-25, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena earlier tonight, June 21. The Green and White secured a first-runner-up finish in the tournament.
Despite the defeat, the season’s 1st Best Middle Blocker, Thea Gagate, led the scoring for her team as she posted eight points, followed by rookie standout Alleiah Malaluan, who scored seven. Jolina Dela Cruz, Matet Espina, and Baby Jyne Soreño all contributed four points each. Meanwhile, libero Justine Jazareno recorded 15 excellent digs.
The championship team was spearheaded by Best Opposite Spiker Alyssa Solomon and the season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bella Belen who scored 18 and 16 points, respectively. Middle blocker Ivy Lacsina and team captain Ces Robles played a spectacular game as they also posted eight and six points each. The league’s Best Libero, Jennifer Nierva, tallied 19 excellent digs, while the season’s Best Setter Camilla Lamina posted 14 excellent sets.
Slipping in the first
The Lady Spikers started the first set on a high note, playing excellent net defense to ward off NU’s attacks. Accompanied by a string of errors, NU allowed the Green and White to pick up an early 5-1 advantage.
However, the Lady Bulldogs slowly began to hit their stride, cutting the La Salle lead to two, 6-4, after a point by Lamina. In response, Malaluan powered through two NU blockers, followed by Sharma’s rejection of NU’s attack, sending DLSU to the first technical timeout of the game ahead, 8-4.
Off the break, Malaluan followed Cruz’s service error with a blistering point to maintain La Salle’s advantage, 9-5. At this point, DLSU seemed to take control of the first set. However, UAAP Season 84 1st Best Outside Hitter and Rookie of the Year Belen sparked her team to a 5-1 run to tie the score at 10-all.
After dropping a four-point advantage, Gagate and Alba connected on a quick attack to regain the lead, 11-10. But despite DLSU’s efforts to contain NU’s attacks, Belen continued to be unstoppable. The rookie MVP scored three straight points off in open play and led her team to further a 6-0 run, entering the second technical timeout of the set with NU up, 11-16.
Gagate finally scored a point for DLSU on a running hit to inch her team closer, 11-17. But after NU orchestrated a momentous run via the creativity of Lamina, the Lady Spikers seemed lost on both ends. Since then, the Lady Bulldogs continued to wreak havoc, displaying full control on both the offensive and the defensive ends. With DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus having used all his timeouts, it was not long until NU claimed the first set, 15-25, after Malaluan’s attack went wide.
After a lackluster performance in the opening set, the Lady Spikers still struggled with their offensive plays. NU rookie standout and the season’s Best Opposite Spiker Solomon scored back-to-back points with a drop ball and an off-the-block hit. This put her team at a 1-4 lead over the Lady Spikers to start the second set.
The Green and White still suffered from poor floor defense and errors. After an attack from Dela Cruz went long, the Lady Bulldogs held a four-point advantage, 1-5. Cruz’s cross-court attempt also failed to go over, causing NU’s lead to balloon to 1-7. Cruz quickly recovered from her blunder and managed a down-the-line spike, 2-7—breaking NU’s 6-0 run. But Solomon continued to torment the Taft towers as she went for a drop ball, bringing her team to a 3-8 lead ahead of the second set’s first technical timeout.
After the timeout, Soreño went for a cross-court attack as she found a donut hole in the back row of the Lady Bulldogs, 4-10. However, Solomon immediately answered with consecutive points off a backrow and a cross-court attack, 5-13. Lady Spiker veteran Dela Cruz then attempted to stop the bleeding with an explosive attack through NU’s blockers, aiding the Taft-based squad who then trailed by seven, 8-15. Despite gaining momentum, a crucial service error from Julia Coronel gave NU the lead, 16-8, going into the second technical timeout of the second frame.
The Sampaloc-based squad continued to suffer from their own errors after committing a net-touch violation, 12-19. This was followed by a service error from Belen, which cut down their lead to seven, 14-21. NU team captain Robles committed an attack error but quickly recovered as she scored against DLSU’s blockers, 15-23. Despite La Salle showing signs of life, a misreceive from Soreño immediately ended the second set in favor of the Lady Bulldogs, 15-25.
Bulldogs make history
De Jesus’ side looked renewed after the tactician’s decision to use his smaller hitters. The Lady Bulldogs continued to struggle with errors, allowing the Green and White to get a 4-2 lead after Maluluan wiped a hit off the block. This lead was brought down to one after a Gagate service error, but the Lady Spikers held on to their lead thanks to former Palarong Pambansa Best Setter Coronel—who found Malaluan for a cross-court spike to bring their team to the first technical timeout of the third set leading, 8-5.
Coming out of the break, NU wasted no time to tie up the score, 8-all. After squandering another early lead, DLSU refocused their efforts, with Coronel connecting with Gagate to score three straight points. After an opposing error, the Lady Spikers were in control once again, 12-9, forcing NU head coach Karl Dimaculangan to call a timeout.
Exiting the huddle, Sharma rose up for an emphatic block to energize the Taft crowd as they were up, 13-9. The two championship contenders traded blows, with Colegio San Agustin-Makati product Coronel setting up points for Soreño and Malaluan before earning a point herself via a dump ball to bring her team to the second technical timeout ahead, 16-12.
La Salle was shaky after the intermission and saw their lead slowly slip away, 16-14. DLSU called a timeout to weather the storm as Espina showed flashes of brilliance through her three consecutive points. The Taft-based squad were close to extending the game, leading 20-17. But with a few points away from history, NU dug deep and scored seven straight markers, bringing the team from Sampaloc to championship point.
However, the Green and White did not quit and fought back to inch closer 22-24. After a valiant effort, the Lady Spikers eventually bowed down, 22-25 after a service error from Gagate.
NU skipper Robles walked away with the distinction as the Finals MVP.
After this heartbreaking loss, the Lady Spikers concluded UAAP Season 84 having achieved many feats this year, highlighted by their first return to the Finals since UAAP Season 81. The young Lady Spikers will be looking to redeem themselves next season with newfound experience.
DLSU – Gagate 8, Malaluan 7, Dela Cruz 4, Soreño 4, Espina 4, Sharma 3, Coronel 2, Cruz 1, Alba 0, Larroza 0,
NU – Solomon 18, Belen 16, Lacsina 8, Robles 6, Toring 3, Pangilinan 2, Nierva 1, Lamina 1, Cagande 0
Set Scores: 15-25, 15-25, 22-25