UAAP: Green Spikers crush Blue Eagles’ Final Four hopes, whip classic rivals in four sets

The DLSU Green Spikers swept the season series against their archrivals ADMU Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Volleyball Tournament in a tightly contested four-set win, 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-19, earlier today, April 21, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Player of the Game Vince Maglinao topped the scoring sheet for La Salle with 19 points on 17 attacks and two blocks alongside a 40-percent attack efficiency. Adding to the scoreboard was Team Captain JM Ronquillo who contributed 15 points, Noel Kampton had a silent 15 points off 14 attacks, and Nathaniel Del Pilar had a defensive clinic, having seven blocks on his 12 points and two service aces that aided in the big win for DLSU.

For the side of the Ateneans, Jian Salarzon had 23 points off 22 attacks for Ateneo in a heartbreaker, which cost them a spot in the Final Four. Cyrus De Guzman chipped 14 points on 10 attacks, one block, and a service ace. 

Opening jitters

A slow start from the Green Spikers allowed the Blue Eagles to capitalize on an early lead after a De Guzman service ace, 5-2. DLSU fought back, improving their defense, and Noel Kampton converted a powerful spike as La Salle inched closer, 7-6. An error-plagued reception from the Green-and-White once again allowed the Blue-and-White to gain momentum, which gave them a comfortable lead, 13-9. La Salle fought back, as Kampton scored a point off a smart play, swiping the ball in the net, 14-13. 

Ateneo Head Coach Timothy Sto. Tomas called a timeout to halt the momentum for La Salle. This worked its wonders as Maglinao’s service went out, 15-13. A series of errors for the Blue Eagles saw their lead disappear, though, 17-all, off a foot fault. Kampton once again saved the set for the Green Spikers with a powerful kill down the line, 24-20. A service error from Ateneo gave La Salle the tightly contested first set, 25-21.

Faltered in the end

Losing hold of several windows for momentum, the second set ended in a dismayingly tight concession to the Katipunan-based squad due to streak-ending errors by the Green Spikers. Despite an impressive offensive start by both sides capped off by a neutralizing soft quick by Billie Anima, the first half of the set saw a wave of errors, mostly from the service line, that cascaded a push-and-pull appearance of deadlocks. The blue jerseys broke the cycle with a 4-0 run by capitalizing on another Ronquillo error to show off three straight explosions from Salarzon and Jett Gopio, forcing La Salle to call for a timeout, 14-10.

However, the Green-and-White refused to back down as they quickly recovered and retaliated with a 5-1 run headlined by one of Anima’s several placement quicks and Del Pilar’s silencing blocks to pass the timeout trigger to Ateneo, 15-all. The second half once again exhibited a seesaw of deadlocks until the Blue Eagles exemplified a crucial 3-0 run right before Salarzon denied the Spikers an extended set comeback via an off-the-block softie, 25-23.

Grit and grind

The painful previous set loss had some effect on the Green Spikers as they trailed once again to the Blue Eagles early on in the third set. Service and attack errors from Ateneo kept La Salle in the game, 5-4. Anima scored the first attack point for the team from Taft with a quick swipe, 7-5. The fightback from DLSU was ignited by Ronquillo with a powerful kill and attack error from ADMU, cutting the lead to two, 10-8. After a Salarzon attack error and Anima’s quick attack, the third set came to a tightly contested battle, with its first deadlock of the set, 15-all. 

A back-and-forth scoring saw both crowds cheering to boost the team’s morale. This gave way to Maglinao, who scored a point off a crosscourt attack to break another deadlock and gave La Salle a one-point lead, but Salarzon would not give up attacking the net defense, 21-all. Returning middle blocker Anima denied Ken Batas’ attack, giving a one-point lead for DLSU and inching closer to the set point, 23-22. Ateneo’s Salarzon tied the game with a crosscourt attack, but Kampton closed out the set with a crosscourt attack from the back row. An attack error from Amil Pacinio gave two sets to one advantage to La Salle, 26-24.

Feisty finale

The closing set witnessed a more stable team connection by the Green Spikers following a successful setter switch-up in the previous set that anchored the Archers’ win. Player of the Game Maglinao immediately surged with three straight points under his belt off crosscourt and down-the-line javelins and a block on a running attack to quickly gain control, 6-4, which they firmly held until the end. The Blue Eagles constantly turned to Salarzon’s efficiency as he kept his squad at bay during crucial moments. However, the pressure also pushed the eventual key player Ateneo, to commit several attack errors in the Spikers’ favor.

The Green Spikers also quickly saw the hole at Zone Six on the other side of the court as Maglinao, Kampton, and Yoyong Mendoza made contributions through that window. However, the Green-and-White struggled to control unforced errors as several freebies were given due to run-ending service and attack errors from their key offense. In the end, La Salle showcased unwavering composure as they dominantly snatched the match with a lucky over reception by Menard Guerrero that stunned Salarzon and an anti-climactic service ace from Team Captain Ronquillo, 25-19.

With the Green Spikers being a game away from ending Round Two, Head Coach Jose Roque talked about his thoughts on the team’s win against their rivals, “Well, masaya! Masaya ako dahil nagawa namin plan namin. We just need to keep focusing doon sa plan namin.” 

(Well, [we’re] happy! Happy because we executed our plan. We just need to keep [our] focus on our plan.)

Para sa akin, kailangan namin kumalma…kumalma bawat isa kasi alam naman natin kasi Ateneo and La Salle is talagang big game. Then sabi nga ni coach kahapon mag-zone out kami sa court…and gawin namin trabaho namin sa court,” Player of the Game Maglinao explained their mindset in this highly-competitive matchup. 

(For me, we need to calm down…keep each other calm because we know Ateneo and La Salle is a big game. Yesterday, our coaches reminded us to zone out inside the court…and play roles.)

The DLSU Green Spikers will wrap up their second-round schedule before heading to the Final Four as they go up against the UST Growling Tigers on Saturday, April 27, at the same venue.

The Scores:

DLSU 3 – Maglinao 19, Kampton 15, Ronquillo 15, Del Pilar 12, Anima 8, Mendoza 1, Adajar 0, De Jesus 0, Gloria 0, Guerrero 0, Poquita III 0

ADMU 1 – Salarzon 23, De Guzman 14, Batas 8, Pacinio 6, Gopio 5, Mangulabnan 2, De Castro 1, Licauco 1, Sendon 0

Set Scores: 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-19

John Rei Salanga

By John Rei Salanga

Raphael Serrano

By Raphael Serrano

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