UAAP: Lady Spikers tame Lady Bulldogs in Round 2 rematch, go 8-0

The DLSU Lady Spikers opened the second round of the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Volleyball tournament with a decisive straight-set victory against the NU Lady Bulldogs once again, 26-24, 26-24, 25-16, earlier tonight, March 25, at the PhilSports Arena.

Super rookie Angel Canino topped the scoring for the Lady Spikers with 15 points, while Player of the Game Jolina Dela Cruz chipped in 12 points and three blocks. Team captain Mars Alba also orchestrated 16 excellent sets for her team.

Meanwhile, Bella Belen spearheaded the Lady Bulldogs’ offense with 17 points. Evange Alinsug complemented Belen’s performance with a double-digit output of her own, as she contributed 14 markers.

Blow by blow

It was a heated affair to start the match, with both sides exchanging hit after hit—featuring seven lead changes in the first set alone. With no time to waste, Canino went against NU’s Belen-Alyssa Solomon duo in a spiking contest until La Salle’s rookie star responded with a block off of Sheena Toring’s mishandled spike to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to one, 6-5. Both teams went on to trade points, ending with Solomon burying a quick hit down the middle to lead the Sampaloc-based squad into the first technical timeout, 8-7.

The action did not stop after the break, as both sides remained relentless in their scoring. Season 84 rookie MVP Belen commanded the offense for her side as she boosted the lead to two with consecutive markers, 14-12, but was answered right back with a kill block from Thea Gagate to cut their lead down to one, 14-13. Soon after, Solomon misfired a service attempt as the Lady Bulldogs entered the second technical timeout leading within one, 16-15.

Starting off the final half of the first frame with a Belen service error, the Lady Spikers capitalized on this to ignite the momentum on their side with three straight unanswered points from Dela Cruz and Fifi Sharma, 21-18. Solomon and Alinsug single-handedly brought NU back within striking distance, though, as the duo converted three hits alone to bring La Salle’s lead within one with their attacks, 22-21. It was a close contest for the two teams as DLSU failed to clinch the set after Dela Cruz’s spike brought them within match point—with Toring immediately responding with a swing of her own, 24-23. NU’s Belen then registered a cross-court hit to even it up, 24-all, until Sharma and Canino unleashed a B-quick and a service ace, respectively, to snatch the first set win, 26-24.

Down to the wire

It was the Lady Bulldogs who came into the second set on fire, with Belen firing off a powerful spike to capitalize a 5-1 run that forced a DLSU timeout to start the second set. After some strong words from returning DLSU Head Coach Ramil De Jesus, the Lady Spikers mounted a lengthy run of their own. Gagate, Jyne Soreño, and Canino all scored multiple times in a 7-1 run that saw them take a two-point lead, 8-6, by the first technical timeout of the set.

Both teams traded points in the coming minutes, with neither gaining a sizable lead for a while. That would soon change as Dela Cruz rattled off two quick consecutive points before Gagate scored on a powerful attack that suddenly gave the Lady Spikers a four-point lead, 13-9. Undeterred, the Lady Bulldogs kept their composure, as the trio of Camilla Lamina, Belen, and Alinsug starred in an 8-5 run that brought their team within one point, 19-18.

An intense battle commenced in the final moments of the second set, with both teams making clutch plays. The Lady Spikers proved themselves as the league’s best blocking team, with Gagate and Sharma walling off multiple spikes from their rivals. However, the Lady Bulldogs continued their relentless charge as Belen and Alinsug continued to bury spikes despite the excellent La Salle defense. With another close set tied at 24-apiece, Canino once again showcased her reliability in high-pressure situations. The Bacolod native uncorked a long spike to give her team the advantage before adding a flawless service that forced the NU attack to a block by Dela Cruz and secured another set in heart-stopping fashion, 26-24.

Losing their bite 

Riding the coattails of another tightly-wound set victory, the Green and White sparked a 4-0 surge led by a trio of hits from Gagate and a service ace from Alba to open what became the final frame. Service errors had already been a rampant issue for the Bulldogs during the match before Solomon failed to convert another service attempt. A Canino kill allowed La Salle’s lead to balloon back to four, 8-4, heading into the first technical timeout.

The Lady Spikers were unstoppable from this point forward, as their offensive firepower rocketed to unreachable heights thanks to Alba’s sets built upon excellent decision-making. This attacking display, along with error-plagued executions from NU, resulted in a drastic shift from what the Sampaloc-based squad showed in the first two frames. Another service error from the Bulldogs, courtesy of Lamina, extended DLSU’s lead to six, 12-6, seeing their momentum stops dead in its tracks.

Not taking their foot off the pedal, the Taft-based squad further scored three straight unanswered points, extending their lead to nine, 15-6. Solomon struggled to find her offense in the third set, producing error after error. With their eighth straight victory in sight, the Lady Spikers continued their intelligent play—not losing focus. After an unsuccessful challenge by NU, La Salle took a whopping 21-12 lead. In the closing moments, it was Sharma and Gagate who punctuated a dominant 25-16 win with three points combined in the final possessions.

After being sidelined for nearly 10 months, this game marked the return of long time DLSU Head Coach De Jesus the La Salle bench—much to the delight of players and other coaches alike. “Even though same lang kami ng respect kay Coach Noel and Coach Ramil, mas ginanahan yung team, mas na-boost yung play ng team,” Canino stated. Having served as interim head coach in De Jesus’ absence, Noel Orcullo shared the similar sentiments, saying, “Sobrang overwhelmed, dati nagdududa ako, kakayanin ko ba, pero ngayon nandiyan na siya (de Jesus), mas confident na ako.”

(Although we have the same level of respect for Coach Noel and Coach Ramil, the team was more motivated, and our gameplay was boosted.)

(I am extremely overwhelmed. Before, I had doubts about whether I could handle it or not, but now that he is here, I am more confident.)

With their second straight win over the defending champions in just over a week, the Lady Spikers’s confidence is at an all-time high. After surviving two close sets that came down to deuces, Dela Cruz shares, “Nakaka-boost siya ng confidence, sabi nga ni coach Ramil, bihira magkaroon ng 7-0, 8-0 sweep, kaya ginrab lang namin yung opportunity na yon para mas ma-boost yung confidence namin.”

(It boosted my confidence. As Coach Ramil said, it’s rare to have a 7-0 or 8-0 sweep, so we just grabbed that opportunity to boost our confidence further.)

The Lady Spikers look to continue their winning ways at 2 pm on March 29 against the FEU Lady Tamaraws at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:

DLSU 3 – Canino 15, Dela Cruz 12, Sharma 9, Gagate 8, Soreño 4, Alba 2, Jazareno 1

NU 0 – Belen 17, Alinsug 14, Solomon 8, Toring 5, Pangilinan 4, Maaya 2

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

Dayne Aduna

By Dayne Aduna

Julio Amir Tampis

By Julio Amir Tampis

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