After a crushing loss to the AdU Lady Falcons in the first game of the SSL National Invitational Finals, the DLSU Lady Spikers delivered a statement victory in Game Two to force a do-or-die title match, 25-23, 25-12, 25-18, earlier tonight, August 12, at the FilOil EcoOil Center.
Coming off her career-high performance in Game One, it was Shevana Laput who paved the way for a Green and White victory, contributing 18 points. Laput’s Player of the Game performance was supported by 13 and nine points respectively from Amie Provido and Thea Gagate.
As for the Ermita-based squad, the tandem of Ayesha Juegos and Red Bascon attempted to will their team throughout the game by providing 12 and nine points each, respectively.
As the first whistle sounded, DLSU had their eyes immediately set on forcing Game Three. However, AdU struck first with a block point from Juegos. This was followed by a quick attack from Gagate that tied the score at one-all and signified the start of what would become a close set. Both teams traded points until the 5-all mark, with scores mainly coming from Juegos and the Taft tower duo of Gagate and Laput. The Lady Spikers were able to gain their first lead after an error from the Lady Falcons, 6-5. Still early into the set, Provido and Julyana Tolentino starred in a flashy fake play much to the excitement of the spectators, 7-5. La Salle headed into the first technical timeout of the game with a two-point advantage, 8-6.
AdU rookie Red Bascon and Juegos then started causing problems for DLSU—each getting a point off of attacks to lock the score, 8-8. The Taft-based team immediately responded with two quick points, holding on to a two-point lead until the second technical timeout, 16-14. In the process, Laput, who scored a monstrous 30 markers in Game One, dueled against the duo of Bascon and Juegos. Both teams traded attacks and excellent receptions, resulting in a thrilling opener that kept spectators standing after each point scored.
After a Gagate block point, 19-17, the Lady Falcons suddenly showed life. With a DLSU error and a couple of attacks, AdU gained their first lead since the opening point of the game, 20-19. Adding fuel to the fire, two kills from Bascon gave the Lady Falcons their largest lead of the set, 22-20. Despite this, the defending UAAP Champions showcased their resiliency. Laput, Alleiah Malaluan, and Provido each scored a point to tie the game once again, 23-apiece. Maicah Larroza’s drop point and an attack error from the Lady Falcons securely sealed the first set for La Salle, 25-23.
The Lady Spikers sought to build off their momentum in the first frame by striking fast in the second, starting with a kill from Gagate, 1-0. Adamson quickly responded by tying the set at 1-all with a point coming from Bascon. The two sides traded scores for the succeeding rally until the Lady Spikers began to break away after a tip-in from Coronel 6-3. A block from Malaluan and a fumble from Bascon saw DLSU lead 8-4 going into the first technical timeout.
Coming out of the break, Bascon immediately placed a tick on the scoreboard, but team captain Coronel responded by scoring on a crafty dump ball, 9-5. The Green and White stayed hungry, showing off their famish to force a Game Three in the SSL finals. The fiery charge was led by Laput who made two straight crosscourt kills to give the Lady Spikers a five-point advantage, forcing Adamson into a timeout, 13-8. And with her hands still aflame, Laput continued her onslaught, scoring two out of three points in a run to offer DLSU a seven-point lead entering the set’s second technical timeout, 16-9.
From then on, it was DLSU who took sole control of the helm, with all members on the floor chipping in to add to the lead. The Lady Falcons were left with no chance to get back on their wings and seemingly had no answer for Laput throughout the rest of the set as DLSU ended the frame in dominant fashion, 25-12.
Completing the sweep
After closing out the second set in commanding form, DLSU was one set away from forcing a decisive Game Three for the gold. Much like the two previous sets, La Salle and Adamson battled back and forth early. Gagate and Laput provided a perfect balance of offense and defense for the Green and White, attacking from everywhere on the court while anchoring the front line. Provido and Coronel complemented the towering duo for the Lady Spikers. On the other hand, Lucille Almonte and company kept her team alive in the same fashion, 7-all. After an error from the Lady Falcons, both teams would head to the huddle for the first technical timeout of set three with DLSU leading 8-7.
Returning to the court, Gagate was once again the first to strike with two quick points, with one coming off of a long rally that brought a euphoric experience to the audience. Coronel, who shined in the third set with four flashy points, showcased a reigning UAAP 85 Finals MVP Mars Alba-esque fake set that froze the Adamson defense for a La Salle point. This, along with multiple errors from AdU, completed a 5-0 run for the Green and White, 12-7. It was then Larroza and Coronel’s turn to showcase their offensive prowess as they forced the second technical timeout with DLSU having a 16-10 lead.
Laput and Larroza extended the lead to eight, 18-10. Meanwhile, two ferocious putback spikes from Provido and Coronel fueled La Salle’s fans to cheer loudly as the Taft-based team creeped closer towards a Game Two victory. With the lead at double digits, 22-12, it was looking like an easy win for DLSU. However, a block point from AdU and three straight errors from La Salle chipped into the lead, 23-16, setting up the Lady Falcons for a comeback reminiscent of Game One. Larroza scored a strong point, but Provido’s service landed outside, 24-17. The Lady Spikers committed another error before Lady Falcons setter Angelica Alcantara committed a service error of her own, sealing the deal for DLSU in a sweep, 25-18.
After falling short in Wednesday’s five-set loss, La Salle reminded everyone that they are the rightful owners of the UAAP Women’s Volleyball crown. When asked about the team’s mindset heading into the game, Malaluan stated, “From that loss, sobrang motivated kami bumawi. Kailangan naming patunayan na defending (UAAP) Champions kami.”
(After that loss, we were really motivated to bounce back. We needed to prove ourselves as defending UAAP Champions).
DLSU Assistant Coach Noel Orcullo commented on DLSU’s preparations for the final game, “Nandito ‘yung momentum sa amin, kailangan panindigan namin. Pagdating bukas, dapat ganito pa rin ang laro namin.”
(The momentum is here with us, we need to keep it that way. Come tomorrow, we need to play like we did today).
With this win, the Lady Spikers will look to fend off the Lady Falcons and claim the Shakey’s Super League Invitationals crown in a deciding finals match at 4 pm tomorrow, August 13 at the same venue.
DLSU 3 – Laput 18, Provido 13, Gagate 9, Larroza 6, Malaluan 6, Coronel 5, Soreño 4
ADU 0 – Juegos 12, Bascon 9, Almonte 6, Toring 4, Ancheta 3, Lalongisip 2
Set Scores: 25-23, 25-12, 25-18