UAAP: Green Spikers squander momentum against Blue Eagles in five sets, loosen grip on third seed

After winning their previous meeting in Round One, the DLSU Green Spikers failed to grind out another win against the ADMU Blue Eagles in five sets, 25-22, 19-25, 28-26, 20-25, 13-15, earlier today, April 23, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

In a losing effort, Noel Kampton posted a match-high 21 points from 19 attacks and two service aces. JM Ronquillo and team captain Vince Maglinao contributed 17 points apiece, while Billie Anima stood out by dominating on top of the net with six blocks.

The driving force behind Ateneo was Ken Batas, with an outstanding offensive outing on a whopping 30-point performance, which included 28 attacks and six excellent digs. This team effort was supported by open hitter Jian Salarzon and Cancianno Llenos, who tallied 21 and 12 points, respectively.

Flaunting variety

With so much at stake in the game, the Green Spikers displayed a mix of plays to draw first blood against their rivals. Following an early lead built by the Blue Eagles, DLSU tallied three consecutive attack points courtesy of Kampton’s crosscourt hit, a back row attack from Ronquillo, and a Nat Del Pilar quick from the middle to steal the lead, 9-8. Amil Pacinio was ready to rescue his team with a drop ball and an emphatic crosscourt kill, 11-10, La Salle still in the lead. 

Ateneo’s Egie Magadia surprised the defense of the green shirts with a set in the middle to Jett Gopio, 13-all. Anima quickly answered back with his own version of a middle attack, 14-13. Kampton’s backrow attack escaped a three-man wall from the blue shirts to keep the lead, 21-19. Fresh from the bench, Von Marata led the Green and White to set point with a drop at the open field, 24-21. Salarzon spoiled the fun for the Taft-based squad, though, with a back row attack from Zone 6, 24-22. An unfortunate service error from the blue side ended the set, 25-22.

Left behind

Del Pilar opened the second set with a quick attack which was then followed by Kampton’s service ace, 2-0. Early in the set, DLSU showed great defense to give them the window for multiple attacks. Having good coverage from Guerrero, the Green Spikers were able to execute pesky plays with a combination play from Ronquillo and a running attack from Anima, 6-3. Due to this offensive end, DLSU gained a three-point lead coming into the first technical timeout, 8-5. 

The team from Taft managed to bank on their points until a 3-0 run from Ateneo took place which led to La Salle calling for a timeout. After this, the Blue Eagles’ momentum was shaken when Salarzon hit his service wide, giving DLSU a point, 18-15. Recovering from a three-point deficit, Ateneo managed to show a gutsy performance when they started a mini run from their attacks after a net touch violation from La Salle. Consequently, reaching a deadlock at 18, Ateneo pulled away, scoring consecutively with attacks from Batas and Llenos. The Green Spikers were scrambling in the latter part of the second set, when a net touch violation from Anima led to Ateneo reaching set point. After several unforced errors from DLSU, a 7-1 run comeback from the Blue Eagles was finished off with Magadia’s service ace which gave them the second set, 25-19.

Late crusade

An error-riddled Green Spikers almost gave away the set to the Blue Eagles, but the squad from Katipunan could not capitalize from the errors of their opponent and gave the set to the Green Spikers.

A quick set from Angel Serrano to Del Pilar kicked off the third set, 1-0. The fired up Batas outsmarted the defense of La Salle to end the long rally with a drop ball, 2-2. Fighting back, Maglinao broke the building confidence of Batas with a solid block to regain the lead, 3-2.

Later on, a controversial hit from Salarzon gave Ateneo the lead, 7-6, and the coaching staff of the Green Spikers tried to challenge the call but the head referee refused, gaining loud boos from the dominant La Salle crowd. The Taft-based squad showed signs of unease as Charles Absin rose to the occasion with a block against Kampton and a quick, respectively, 10-7. With ADMU ahead of the game. Ronquillo powered through a clean back row attack with some swag to inch closer, 16-15.

After trailing behind for most of the set, Kampton targeted Salarzon to equalize the scoreboard, 21-all. Absin took advantage of a broken play, 23-21, giving Ateneo the upper hand once again. Maglinao kept the Green Spikers afloat with a spike directed to Zone 1, 24-all. A cross-court hit from Batas sent the blue shirts to the set point, 24-23. Maglinao found a gap in Ateneo’s defense to even the scores, 25-all. Anima stole the set point from Ateneo with a block versus Batas, 27-26. Back-to-back blocks from Ronquillo and Anima sealed the set in favor of DLSU, 28-26.

Losing momentum 

DLSU got off to a bad start in the fourth set trailing three points from the Blue Eagles, 3-0. The Green Spikers struggled to find their groove until a Kampton attack that fired through the block, giving DLSU their first point in the fourth set. Salarzon stepped up for Ateneo, tipping the ball over and outsmarting the Taft towers. La Salle trailed early, 8-2, at the first technical timeout in the set. 

With the momentum in the hands of the spikers in blue, they had more than recovered from the first set loss. Despite three big points and an off-the-block from Kampton’s attacks and Roquillo, respectively, unforced errors continued to hold DLSU back as they struggled to serve the ball inside the court. The efforts of DLSU were not enough as they fell short from ADMU’s kills. An off-the-block from Salarzon put the team from Katipunan at set point. Kampton held their momentum for a while as he scored back-to-back, off and through the blockers of Ateneo, 24-20. Go-to player Salarzon extended the match to a fifth set, firing a backrow attack.

Out of focus

Carrying the momentum established during the fourth set, the Blue Eagles kept the Green Spikers on their feet throughout the fifth and deciding set. Kampton opened the last set with a net touch, fueling their opponent even more, 1-0. Both teams traded blows, with an unopposed dunk from Ronquillo with some airtime setting the game on equal ground, 4-all. A scoring barrage from the Blue and White courtesy of a crosscourt hit from Batas and a block from Gopio against Ronquillo extended Ateneo’s lead, 12-8. Batas maximized his wit to escape La Salle’s tight floor defense, 13-8, much to the delight of the roaring Ateneo crowd. 

The Green Spikers were not ready to give up the game yet as they managed to build up a scoring train with Maglinao’s two consecutive attacks, 13-11. Batas countered with a through-the-block hit to send Ateneo at match point, 14-12. Marata’s block against Salarzon sailed out to close the game,15-13.

DLSU, FEU, and ADMU now share an identical 7-6 win-loss record and may have a series of play-ins for the remaining Final Four spots. The Taft-based hitters will look to finish the elimination round strong as they face the sixth-seeded UE Red Warriors, a team which they warded off in the previous round, at 5 pm on Saturday, April 29, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre.

The Scores:

DLSU 2 – Kampton 21, Ronquillo 17, Maglinao 17, Anima 11, Del Pilar 4, Marata 1, Poquita 1

ADMU 3 – Batas 30, Salarzon 21, Llenos 12, Gopio 9, Absin 7, Pacinio 3, Magadia 2

Set Scores: 25-22, 19-25, 28-26, 20-25, 13-15

Luis Agus

By Luis Agus

Ysa Bakabak

By Ysa Bakabak

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