SSL: Lady Spikers win five-set classic versus Golden Tigresses to secure finals spot

The DLSU Lady Spikers booked a ticket to the Finals of the SSL National Invitationals after surviving the UST Golden Tigresses in a five-set thriller, 22-25, 25-18, 14-25, 26-24, 26-24, earlier tonight, August 4, at the FilOil EcoOil Center. 

Alleiah Malaluan and Shevana Laput carried the scoring load for La Salle, posting 25 and 23 points respectively. Both wing spikers had a field day at the service line, with Laput delivering six points from aces while Malaluan converted five. Also chipping in double-digit markers was Thea Gagate with 14 points, three of which came from blocks.

For the team from España, it was the duo of Angeline Poyos and Regine Jurado who led the way as they tallied 29 and 25 points, respectively.

Sharpened claws

With each side facing a UAAP-hailing team for the first time in the competition, the game was a neck-and-neck affair coming out of the gates. La Salle fell behind by two points, 6-4, but rising star Laput delivered three straight points to put her side ahead, 7-6. With the momentum on their side, Malaluan’s crosscourt spike gave DLSU a one-point advantage going into the first technical timeout of the first set, 8-7.

Both teams went at each other in the action that ensued, with DLSU struggling with errors. Despite this, the Green and White managed to hold down the set with their defense above the net, going into the second technical timeout up by a solitary marker, 16-15. Exiting the break, Ordiales came off the bench to score big time points for the team from Taft, putting her side up 20-19 after an ace and a kill. However, the UAAP Season 85 champions were unable to hold on to the set, seeing it slip through their fingertips, 25-22. Jurado capitalized on La Salle’s shaky floor defense to perfectly slot an ace in between zones one and six. 

Playing it fierce 

Looking to bounce back from a tightly-contested loss in the first set, the Lady Spikers looked to head into the second frame with renewed energy. It was Laput who initiated the set by scoring off a block, 1-0. The Golden Tigresses sought to quell a potential spark from their foes and immediately got an equalizer from Poyos, 1-all.  This was followed by multiple exchanges in scores from both sides that saw the Golden Tigresses taking a one point lead off a failed block attempt, 4-3. The two squads were still unable to shake off the rust as they traded consecutive service errors—two of which came from Malaluan, 7-all. Gagate then stopped the bleeding and sent the set to its first technical timeout, 8-7. 

It was another back and forth affair coming out of the break, but Laput helped the Lady Spikers build some momentum with her ace, 12-11. From then on, DLSU kicked off a run which was graced by two aces from Malaluan leading into the set’s second technical timeout, 16-12. The Lady Spikers stayed in rhythm and continued to rev up their momentum off a hit from Gagate, 19-14. A successful contest from twin blockers and a sneaky dump ball from Malaluan gave DLSU a comfortable seven-point advantage, 23-16. It was Provido who provided the finishing touches to tie the match at one apiece, 25-18. 

One step back

Following a strong performance to close out their second set win, La Salle’s error-riddled play left them to catch up early. Laput hammered down an ace to bring the deficit to just one, 5-4. However, her next trip to the line saw the ball go straight into the net as UST ran away going into the first technical timeout with a three-point cushion, 8-5.

DLSU continued to struggle, with Head Coach Ramil de Jesus calling for time after his team fell behind by five, 10-5. The Lady Spikers managed to cut the Golden Tigresses’ advantage to three, 11-8, after a Provido ace, but their adversaries from España were dauntless. Keeping their foot on the gas, UST reached the second technical timeout of the set, 16-9, as La Salle continued to struggle with self-caused errors.

The team from Taft struggled to regain their rhythm, falling behind by as much as 11 points, 20-9. Looking to shake things up in a set that seemed already lost, Ela Raagas and June Soreño were substituted in. The Lady Spikers showed signs of life, cutting the lead to single digits at 22-13 after a solo-block kill by Provido. However, the deficit proved too large as DLSU fell in the third set, 25

The hunt not over

The reigning UAAP Champions were not ready to bow out of the competition just yet and were determined to breathe life into their play. Once again, both sides traded blows to open the frame, and the Lady Spikers took the early advantage upon a point reviewed and given by officials, 3-2. Neither squad wanted to let up and allow the other to take the helm, going neck and neck in consecutive rallies. When it seemed like no side would fold, the Golden Tigresses unleashed three straight winning rallies to dangle a single point lead, 16-15. Following the second technical timeout in the set, the next four points in the set alternated between a Malaluan kill and a dump-ball from UST, 18-17.  

Time was running out for the squad from Taft late in the set as a 20-23 lead for UST forced the Lady Spikers to take a timeout to save their finals hopes. When things appeared to be grim after a UST dump ball sending the game into match point, the combined efforts of the Lady Spikers commanded by Provido’s composure sent the set into a deuce, 24-24. A point coming from an attack going out of bounds and a cold-blooded kill from Malaluan fished successive markers to claim the set, giving the Lady Spikers a final opportunity to punch a ticket to the finals. 

Going blow for blow 

The DLSU Lady Spikers rode their momentum from a massive fourth set win to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the final frame after Laput rose above the opposing blockers for a kill.

Despite some reception blunders, DLSU managed to regain a three-point cushion going into the final technical timeout of the game in good form, 8-5, after Malaluan sent the ball into the donut hole in UST’s defense with finesse.

After looking as if they were about to run away with the win, La Salle were unable to hold on as the Golden Tigresses managed to tie up the scoreline at 9-all. With their finals hopes on the line, neither team backed down. The two Manila-based rosters exchanged points forcing deadlock after deadlock. It seemed as if DLSU were about to take the second finals spot for themselves after a UST error put DLSU up, 13-12, with Malaluan at the service line, but her ball was unable to go into play DLSU managed to reach match point at 14-13. Jurado did not give in as she overpowered the Green and White double block to send the game to deuce.

After playing the whole of the final set, the Golden Tigresses turned the tables on DLSU after Gula served up a timely ace. Not looking to go home quite yet, Provido shut the door on UST to tie the affair up once again, 16-all.

With both sides on the edge of the finals, neither gave in. Proving herself as a veteran presence, Gagate tried to put DLSU ahead with two consecutive quick attack conversions, but UST met her blow for blow, 20-all. Errors ensued from the two title contenders as signs of fatigue began to show. 

Edging close to the finish line and in search of the game’s hero, it was Malaluan who proved herself a cut above the rest. She managed to bring the score even at 24-all before a Cornell shutdown brought the Green and White to match point once again, 25-24. The captain then proceeded to misdirect the Golden Tigresses’ defense, sending her set past Gagate to a tracking where Malaluan sent her ball crosscourt to seal the win and leave the opposing receivers flat on their heels.

In preparation for their first SSL opponent coming out of their home UAAP, Assistant Coach Noel Orcullo shares, “Sabi namin sa kanila kaninang umaga, kailangan ilabas [ang] ‘a-game” nila. Hindi pwedeng easy-easy lang ang gawin.

(We told them that they needed to bring out their a-game. We couldn’t afford to just go easy.)

Steadily settling into her expanded role entering her sophomore season, Lapit adds, “We still need to improve as a team…and form connections together.”

With their undefeated record in the competition intact, Orcullo states, “Kailangan paghandaan…’yung Adamson. Marami din nawala [na key players]. Unfamiliar din sa amin ‘yung players nila, kailangan pagdating ng Wednesday alam na [namin] ‘yung mga tendencies [nila].”

(We need to prepare…Adamson also lost a lot of key players. Their players are unfamiliar to us, by Wednesday we need to know their tendencies).

After this nail-biting win, the DLSU Lady Spikers will return to the same venue on August 9 when they play the AdU Soaring Falcons in the first match of their best-of-three finals series.

The Scores:

DLSU 3 – Malaluan 25, Laput 23, Gagate 14, Provido 9, Larroza 6, Soreño 5, Ordiales 2, Torres 1

UST 2 – Poyos 29, Jurado 25, Peroido 9, Gula 8, Perdido 6, Banagua 6, Carballo 4, Hilongo 3, Pepito 1

Set Scores: 22-25, 25-18, 14-25, 26-24, 26-24

Jaden Alberto

By Jaden Alberto

Diego Manzano

By Diego Manzano

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