The DLSU Lady Spikers completed a sweep in the first round of the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball Tournament after thwarting defending champions NU Lady Bulldogs in straight sets, 25-10, 25-15, 25-21, earlier today, March 22, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Leading her team to victory, team captain Mars Alba bagged the Player of the Game accolade with 20 excellent sets and three points. Rookie standout Angel Canino tallied 14 points, while Fifi Sharma scored 12 points with one service ace. Another commendable performance was also brought by veteran Jolina Dela Cruz, who contributed 11 points and 10 excellent digs.
In what was a lopsided loss, Bella Belen led the Lady Bulldogs in the scoreboard with 12 points, one block, and seven excellent digs. Her scoring tally was followed by Alyssa Solomon and team captain Princess Robles, who chipped in eight and six markers, respectively.
Showing no mercy
Making a statement in the arena, Solomon pounded the ball into the pavement to start the match in favor of the Lady Bulldogs, 1-0. Finding their pace early in the first set, the Lady Spikers kicked off a 9-0 run which started from Gagate’s gentle tip into the donut hole of NU’s defense. Despite the endless attacks coming from the Green and White, Solomon stopped the bleeding for the team from Sampaloc with a down-the-line hit, 9-4. Points were exchanged between both teams, with Solomon and Canino battling it out above the net. But the gritty NU squad managed to cut the separation to six with a clean spike from UAAP Season 84 Rookie MVP Belen, 13-7.
La Salle asserted dominance in the latter part of the set as a kill block by Alba sent both teams into the second technical timeout with the Green and White in the lead, 16-7. The advantage was then furthered as Cruz came out of the break to convert Jazareno’s dolphin dive into a point. Biting back, Solomon swung from the open side and scored another one for NU, 17-10. Despite their gallant efforts, DLSU took the upper hand and ended the set with a 9-0 run, 25-10.
Dominance above the net
After a brilliant opening set, the DLSU Lady Spikers maintained their fast-paced plays as they built an early lead that featured Dela Cruz’s cross-court attack, 3-1. This was followed by Canino, who unleashed a single block on Solomon, 5-1. Maintaining their net defense, Sharma delivered back-to-back points to propel her team to the first technical timeout of the second set, 8-3.
Coming from the break, Lady Bulldogs Team Captain, Robles ended DLSU’s run with a solid crosscourt attack, 8-4. The Green and White continued their stellar performance at the net, as Taft Towers Thea Gagate and Sharma blocked attacks from Solomon and Erin Pangilinan to give their team an eight-point advantage, 13-5. Unable to close the gap, NU faltered in their offensive plays as they suffered from consecutive errors and trailed La Salle in the second technical timeout, 16-8.
The Lady Bulldogs recovered from their early blunders as they went on a 3-0 run, rattling DLSU’s floor defense, 17-10. However, super rookie Canino stopped the run with a crucial cross-court attack, 18-10. Building great momentum, Gagate and Canino displayed their prowess at the net as Sharma scored with a smart drop ball, 20-12. In an attempt to shake things up, DLSU Coach Noel Orcullo subbed in Dela Cruz and Maicah Larroza. Not looking to extend the set, veteran Dela Cruz ended the second frame with a solid block against Robles, 25-15.
Securing the sweep
Both NU and La Salle were neck-and-neck all throughout the third set. As one of the best blocking teams in the league, DLSU lived up to expectations with two consecutive kill blocks from Dela Cruz and Gagate to start the set, 3-1. However, the Bulldogs regained their teeth as Belen and Pangilinan scored from emphatic kills, 4-3. With her hot hand, Canino continued to battle it out with Solomon as they exchanged varied spikes, but this time Belen aided the scoring for NU with four consecutive points, 9-8. Both teams were tied in the game as Gagate’s drop ball fell short of the net, 9-all. Relentless, DLSU did not back down from their opponents as they continued to create a rift from the Bulldogs as Alba scored off a deadly serve to create a two-point cushion, 11-9. Points were exchanged early during the first part of the set, but NU’s fast plays allowed the Sampaloc-based team to kick off a 5-0 run and snatch the lead for the first time in the match after a spike by Robles, 15-14.
The back-and-forth affair between both teams intensified as Evangeline Alinsug, who replaced Robles in the third set, scored from a sharp cross-court kill to start the second half of the set, 16-all. Dela Cruz swung from the pipe and brushed her hit off the hands of Solomon to finish off a 3-0 run for La Salle. Errors piled up for the Lady Spikers and the Bulldogs began to inch closer, 19-18.
In response, Canino utilized the hands of the blockers to tally another point for DLSU, 20-18. She was then replaced by service specialist Larroza in the latter part of the game, rattling the defensive pattern of NU. With Larroza’s deadly jump float serves, the team from Taft was able to maximize the shaky first ball of NU’s Jenifer Nierva, with back-to-back points, 22-18. With a four-point gap, Belen was determined to keep their reign as champions alive with three powerful hits, diminishing the deficit to one, 24-21. With great composure, Dela Cruz secured the sweep for De La Salle University as she unleashed a clean hit from the opposite side, 25-21.
The outside hitter Canino explains how the Taft-based squad has been preparing ever since their Shakey’s Super League stint and how everyone in the team contributed in doing their part, “Kaya yan po yung resulta, nagstick po kami sa gameplan namin and sa system.”
(That’s why the result came out that way, we stuck to our game plan and system.)
Despite committing many unforced errors throughout the match, DLSU Coach Orcullo circles in on focusing on the team’s strengths in preparation for their upcoming matches. “Kailangan kung ano yung strength natin yun ang pangatawan na natin yun.” He further explains that the team’s blocking is an asset, especially for DLSU’s defense—with his team converting 14 blocks in today’s match.
(We need to focus on our strengths and embody them.)
The DLSU Lady Spikers will begin the second round of the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball tournament with a rematch against the NU Lady Bulldogs at 5 pm on Saturday, March 25, at the PhilSports Arena Pasig.
DLSU 3 – Canino 14, Sharma 12, Dela Cruz 11, Gagate 9, Cruz 6, Alba 3, Larroza 0, Jazareno 0
NU 0 – Belen 12, Solomon 8, Robles 6, Pangilinan 3, Alinsug 2, Toring 2, Cagande 2, Nierva 0, Jardio 0
Set Scores: 25-10, 25-15, 25-21