UAAP: Lady Spikers end laudable title defense in a thrilling replica of S81 denial by redemption-filled Golden Tigresses

After playing their hearts out in a nostalgic Season 81 five-set thriller, the DLSU Lady Spikers bowed down to the redemption-driven UST Golden Tigresses,  20-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 7-15, failing to defend their championship title in the UAAP Season 86 Women’s Volleyball Tournament earlier tonight, May 5, at the SM Mall of Asia Area. 

Despite a season filled with injury and several team adjustments, the Green-and-White capped off their title-defending stint with four Lady Spikers who finished in double digits. Shevana Laput and Angel Canino led the offense for the team, tallying 20 points and 14 markers, respectively. Veteran middle blocker Thea Gagate stood her ground as she took charge of the net defense, chipping in 16 points and six blocks. While the game-changing Jyne Soreño contributed 11 markers and five blocks, stabilizing La Salle’s floor and net defense.  

Leading her team to secure a ticket in the Finals was Angeline Poyos, who tallied 28 points off 25 spikes and two service aces. This was closely replicated by Jonna Perdido, who contributed 18 markers and two blocks in the gallant victory. 

Lacking consistency 

With a much-needed win in their heads, the DLSU Lady Spikers stepped on the court looking to upset the second-seeded UST Golden Tigresses. However, since the beginning of the first set, the ladies from Taft struggled to find a reliable scoring machine to rely on and counter the Black-and-Gold’s tactical plays. 

Laput kicked off the ball game with a crosscourt hit to put DLSU on the board 1-0. In a surprising manner, Bianca Plaza was the first Tigress to tally a point with a quick from the middle, 2-all. A collective effort from Plaza, Perdido, and Regina Jurado ignited a short 4-0 run to put UST ahead, 11-6. Margaret Banagua from the middle sparked another run for the España-based squad and back-to-back off-the-block attacks from Poyos. A service ace from Jurado, which gave UST a comfortable five-point lead, forced La Salle to call a timeout and regroup, 18-11. Poyos concluded the set with a full swing through the block to put DLSU down by a set, 25-20.

The Lady Spikers failed to find a Tigress to target their services and attacks as UST was in full gear with their floor defense. Meanwhile, the shaky first balls and ineffective block attempts were maximized against the Lady Spikers.

Impenetrable walls of Taft

After a dismaying showing of unfounded offense and shaky defense in the opening set, the defending champions finally found their groove in the second set as a formidable Soreño-Gagate connection made a mark. In the first half of the set, errors continued to rattle both teams as an exchange of four straight service errors drizzled the scoreboard by the seven-point mark. But the yellow jerseys got the worse end of the plague as scoring machines Poyos and Perdido gave out long balls to keep the Green-and-White at bay.

As two straight free points were once again handed to the Lady Spikers to tie the game at 11-all, Soreño and Gagate’s frontline blocker pairing sparked a 10-0 run that included four blocks to give La Salle a seven-point cushion, 19-12. Despite valiant efforts by the Golden Tigresses to catch up with Renee Penafiel making a significant appearance to the España-based squad’s lineup, Laput proved to be the dependable offense as her backline arrow quickly finished the set and tied the match, 25-16.

Succumbing to pressure 

Despite having the upper hand coming into the third set, the Lady Spikers found themselves on difficult ground as the Golden Tigresses were off to a hot start with Jurado, Perdido, and Poyos teaming up for an early run, 4-1, UST with the advantage. No run was hard to surmount for Laput with a down-the-line hit and an unfazed attack against the solo block of Cassie Carballo in the last five sequences to put DLSU ahead, 8-6. Amie Provido’s powerful attack from the middle with some feisty swag at the net gained unsolicited resounding boos from the UST crowd, 11-10, the Golden Tigresses with the lead. 

Carballo’s steady playmaking was proven to be tricky for the Taft Towers to read, as UST squeezed in several attacks with no La Salle blockers present at the net. The Green-and-White’s patented blockings were also broken down by the wing spikers of UST with minimal adjustments from the Lady Spikers.

Sophomore superstars

After another tight-knit set, the Lady Spikers once again leaned on the reliable offense of their sophomores to get the job done in the fourth set. After a seemingly silent showing by Season 85 Rookie-MVP Canino, she finally showed out as she served an ace and unleashed diversified explosions to turn the tables for the lead, 10-9. Discovered offensive wonder Laput shrugged off two early errors in the set and made her presence known as she erupted three straight conversions followed by another Soreño block to trigger a 4-0 run for a four-point gutter, 15-11.

On the side of España, Perdido replicated her Round Two showing as the Achilles’ heel of the Archers as she anchored the Tigresses with steadfast offense to keep them within a safe distance, 20-16. However, at the homestretch of the set, crucial twin errors by rookie ace Poyos allowed the Spikers to capitalize as Gagate pounds a quick crosscourt to force a deciding fifth set, 25-19.

Shattered dreams 

Multiple errors haunted the Lady Spikers in the deciding fifth set, allowing the Golden Tigresses to bank points early in the set. In the 6-3 mark with UST ahead, half of the scores of UST came from DLSU’s errors. Perdido carried on with much courage into the fifth set, breaking down the Lady Spikers’ net defense to put their team to match point. Carballo targeted DLSU’s libero Lyka De Leon in her final service to score an ace and finish the game in a convincing fashion, 15-7. This heartbreaking ending to the match closed La Salle’s bid for a possible back-to-back championship. 

Throughout the entire season, the Lady Spikers never managed to snatch a game from the Golden Tigresses. This continued to haunt the Green-and-White’s chance of securing back-to-back championship titles as they struggled to play against them since the first round. Despite extending the match to five sets, the Taft-based team eventually succumbed to the high-spirited Tigresses, who stood tall with their fighting spirit until the last moment the ball dropped. 

Despite the heartbreaking end to their season, the beloved seniors of the Lady Spikers, Julia Coronel, Maicah Larroza, and Jhay Ar Levina, exerted all their efforts on the court as they played their possibly last game representing the Green-and-White. 

The Scores:

DLSU 2 – Laput 20, Gagate 16, Canino 14, Soreño 11, Provido 9, Malaluan 1, Tolentino 1, Coronel 0, Del Castillo 0, De Leon 0, Larroza 0

UST 3 – Poyos 28, Perdido 18, Banagua 8, Jurado 7, Plaza 7, Carballo 6, Penafiel 2, Abbu 1, Abellana 1, Caasi 0, Gula 0, Pepito 0

Set Scores: 20-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 7-15

Luis Agus

By Luis Agus

Tana Melgar

By Tana Melgar

John Rei Salanga

By John Rei Salanga

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