Looking to secure a Final Four spot after a huge win last Wednesday, the DLSU Green Spikers went neck-and-neck against the UST Growling Tigers only to come up short for their fifth loss of the season in four sets, 21-25, 25-23, 28-30, 27-29, yesterday, April 2, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
JM Ronquillo was dominant throughout the matchup with his 20 points on 18 superb attacks. Adding to his efforts was Noel Kampton with 16 points in 14 spikes. However, the duo’s scoring prowess would not be enough to finish UST off.
Meanwhile, rookie Josh Ybañez would earn a game-high 25 points to help the Growling Tigers in their ninth win of the season. The team in gold also featured strong support from Rey De Vega and Rainier Flor, who tallied 15 points apiece.
The matchup began with both teams trading points through vicious attacks, excellent sets, and quick recoveries—resulting in multiple deadlocks in just the first set. By the first technical timeout, the score read 8-7 in favor of the Green Spikers. Ronquillo and Ybañez would then lead their teams throughout the set with multiple points to keep the battle close, reaching a crucial 19-all.
However, the Green Spikers would be the first to let go of the rope, giving up four straight points to the Growling Tigers, 19-23. What seemed to be an attempt at a comeback would not be completed by the Green and White, as a Ybañez point and an attack error from La Salle would close the opening set with DLSU falling behind, 21-25.
Coming off a set win to open the game, the España-based squad soon became the authors of their own demise as early service errors gave La Salle the early lead, 2-1. Matching their opposition’s intensity, a sharp attack from Kampton opened up DLSU’s scoring, 3-2. The Growling Tigers soon took control of the offensive flow with balanced attacking from De Vega, Ybañez, Flor, and Dux Yambao, but errors in between points put the game in a deadlock, 7-all. A double contact violation from La Salle setter Angel Serrano returned the favor giving UST the lead, 8-7.
Coming off the first technical timeout, the Green and White went on a 3-0 run off of smart hits from Ronquillo and Billie Anima, 11-9. Taking control of the offensive flow, an ace by Vince Maglinao and a sharp attack from Ronquillo pushed the Green and White further, 14-12. The Growling Tigers used their might in the middle as a quick attack by Flor placed the game in another tie, 15-all. A mismaneuvered crosscourt attempt by Ronquillo gave UST the lead going into the timeout, 16-15.
Both teams alternated points as errors began to pile for both sides, but an attack from Maglinao forced the game into another deadlock at 19-all. The España-based squad leaned on attacks from the high-octane duo of De Vega and Ybañez to build a 23-21 lead. But the Taft-based squad struck back as a Nat Del Pilar block and an Ace from Andre Espejo gained them set point, 24-23. Finding a gap in the defense, Ronquillo sent the ball down the line to give La Salle the set, 25-23.
Getting to 30
The third set proved to be challenging for both teams as they eventually reached the 30-point mark in another tight bout. After a 13-10 start from the Green Spikers, the squad went head-to-head against the Growling Tigers, with neither team gaining a lead bigger than two points until the end. DLSU and UST traded attacks, aces, blocks, and errors—featuring a series of scores from both teams. Ronquillo and Ybañez once again dueled, often exchanging friendly banter and showing off their swagger after either of them scored.
After the score was tied at 23-all, Ybañez delivered a powerful attack but committed a service error to La Salle’s favor, 24-all. It was now a game of ties, with each team giving it their all just to keep the ball alive and on their opponent’s court. The team from Taft would score or commit an error and then UST would do the same. In the process, Kampton would be given a yellow card by the referee due to misconduct. After the Green Spikers failed to answer a couple of scores from the Growling Tigers, the set eventually ended on a block point from the España-based team, ending the hard-fought set with the Green and White falling, 30-28.
Not quite there
With the aim of avenging their loss in the extended third set, DLSU quickly jumped to a 3-0 lead after an error from UST. La Salle pushed the lead further to 6-2 after a Maglinao attack. The duo of Kampton and Ronquillo provided the firepower for the Taft-based squad to build a 10-6 lead.
Getting back in the groove, the España-based squad used their star duo of Ybañez and De Vega to chip away at the lead. A sequence of attacks from Flor and a block from Yambao forced the match to 14-all, prompting a DLSU timeout. Out of the timeout, both teams pushed the offensive intensity. However, neither squad kept it clean as errors kept the set close. Errors continued to pile up for UST as execution errors gave La Salle the lead 20-18. Maglinao and Ronquillo attempted to build a comfortable lead, but their own errors and some heroic spiking from De Vega pushed the set to extend 24-all.
With both sides feeling the pressure, star players from both sides stepped up to the plate. Both Kampton and Ybañez struck against the opposing defenses, but an overeager Ybañez attacking error put the game at 27-all. The Taft-based squad failed to capitalize on their opposition’s errors, as Kampton misplaced his service attempt to put UST at match point, 28-27. With the game extending into late in the evening, the Growling Tigers decided to call time on the contest as their frontline emphatically denied the Kampton equalizer, ending what was a gritty match in favor of UST, 29-27.
Currently in a race with the Ateneo Blue Eagles for the last Final Four slot, the Green Spikers look to realign their gameplan as they face the UP Fighting Maroons at 2 pm on Sunday, April 16, at the PhilSports Arena.
DLSU 1 – Ronquillo 20, Kampton 16, Maglinao 10, Anima 4
UST 3 – Ybañez 25, de Vega 15, Flor 15, de la Noche 7, Colinares 6, Yambao 5
Set Scores: 21-25, 25-23, 28-30, 27-29