UAAP: DLSU Green Spikers settle for bronze finish, bow down to defending champs NU Bulldogs in four sets

In their second straight appearance in the Final Four, the DLSU Green Spikers suffered a gruesome end to their inspiring campaign as they fell to the three-time defending champions NU Bulldogs, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, earlier today, May 8, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Despite a heartbreaking end to their season, JM Ronquillo managed to rack up 27 points from 23 attacks and three blocks, while Vince Maglinao contributed to the offensive end of the team, following closely with 17 points. Veteran Green Archer duo Billie Anima and Noel Kampton also chipped in double-digits, scoring 12 markers each. 

Heading to the Finals for the ninth consecutive season in a row, the Bulldogs were led by Player of the Game Joshua Retamar’s performance of  21 excellent sets and five blocks. Supporting him in the win were Buds Buddin and Nico Almendras who contributed 23 and 14 markers, respectively. 

Wicked blow

Fighting for the team’s survival, Team Captain Ronquillo took charge by setting the tone for the Green Spikers, working alongside fellow star hitters Kampton and Maglinao to take a 7-3 lead early in the opening set. The four-peat-seeking Bulldogs, however, remained calm and channeled their profound playoff experience, banking on outside hitters Almendras and Buddin to spark a 7-0 run that put NU on top, 10-7. 

With the Green-and-White blockers taken advantage of easily with off-the-block counters and block breakers, the Sampaloc-based squad raced to a 16-11 edge that triggered the alarm bell for La Salle. Even with their excellent play at the net, the Bulldogs opened up opportunities for their foes to pull off a comeback with their careless errors, allowing DLSU to pick up the pace and go on an 8-3 run to tie the set at 19-apiece. 

The green shirts continued to score on crucial plays that were perfectly set up by Eco Adajar, but the Bulldogs fought back by punishing the La Salle blockers with their powerful play. Despite the Taft hitters’ valiant efforts to force a deuce, the white shirts proved they wanted the win more in the final rally as Buddin slotted the ball in with a precise tip-in, 25-23. 

Taft Tower tactics 

La Salle entered the second set with the objective of recovering from their mistakes in the previous set. The first few plays started off with both teams exchanging long rallies and having back-and-forth lead changes. This was immediately halted by Ronquillo, who exploded through the blockers of NU, 6-4. Ronquillo remained as the main offensive weapon for La Salle as he continued his scoring rampage, going above the blockers, 9-7. Compared to the previous set, the Green-and-White adjusted their offensive tactics as Adajar involved his middles, including Anima, and Nat Del Pilar’s fast attacks to punish the Bulldogs’ floor defense. Finally finding their footing, a crucial service error by NU’s Leo Aringo allowed La Salle to snatch the lead, 12-11. 

Upon switching up the pace of their plays, the Blue-and-Gold scrambled with their net defense, who gave up consecutive points to La Salle—handing them a three-point cushion, 17-14. Toward the later half of the set, an intense rally between both sides of the court was ended by an off-the-block attack by Maglinao, 20-18. Seeing an opening at the back of the Bulldogs’ defense, Anima and Adajar converted a nifty quick play to confuse the triple block defense of NU, 21-19. The Green Spikers’ frontline exploded, ending the set to tie the match at one-set apiece, 25-22. 


Having claimed a set each, both teams were well into form in the third set, going back-and-forth early on with DLSU knotting the score at 7-all as Anima scored on a quick attack assisted by Adajar. The Green Spikers tried their best to match the blistering pace at which NU played, with Adajar working as the conductor in control of their offense and picking apart the Bulldogs’ defense. Feeding off their setter’s passion, Ronquillo unleashed a timely ace followed by a solid block from Anima to place them in front, 14-13. 

Following a timeout call from NU, Maglinao finished on an inspiring series of rallies with an ace to extend their advantage to two, 17-15, but consecutive errors and a soft hit from the soaring Jade Disquitado grabbed the lead back for the Blue-and-Gold, 18-17. The nip-and-tuck scoring ensued from then on as Kampton kept up with Disquitado’s firepower; however, facing immense pressure in crunch time, the Green-and-White slipped on back-to-back crucial rallies to hand the Bulldogs a pivotal 21-19 edge. These DLSU errors boosted the reigning champions’ momentum, steering them toward a set point following a superb Disquitado finish on a combination play, 24-22. Losing grip on their composure, the Taft-based team fumbled the set as a Maglinao attack error put them on the brink of elimination with NU’s two-to-one set lead, 25-22. 

Heart-wrenching ending 

With La Salle now down by two sets, the Green Spikers needed to pump up their game to possibly extend the match to a decisive fifth set. However, the Bulldogs displayed their grit and toyed with the defense of the green shirts. This gave way to Aringo, who went for a down-the-line hit, and was followed by an unsuccessful challenge by NU to tie the match at 6-all. The Green-and-White used this window to create consecutive attacks to create a two-point cushion, 9-7. Despite breaking away from their opponents, the defending champions caught up to the Green Spikers by denying all their attacks at the net, tying the match again at 10-all. 

After being unable to catch up with the fast-paced plays of the Blue-and-Gold, Kampton went for an explosive attack to tie the match at 14-all. However, despite leveling the game again, Team Captain Retamar went in for a single block, which completely changed the momentum for La Salle to catch up, 16-14. This was echoed by Buddin, who went on a scoring spree to give NU a three-point lead toward the tail-end of the fourth set, 21-18. 

Eugene Gloria was subbed in to try to stop the bleeding, but he committed a crucial service error that shattered the Lasallian faithful’s cheers in the crowd, 22-19. Ronquillo remained the only ray of hope for DLSU to save their season as he scored through an attack. But his efforts were too late as this was immediately stopped by the defending champions, who used the blockers of La Salle to their advantage, which booked them a ticket to another spot in the Finals, 25-21. 

After making his comeback in Season 86, Anima revealed, “I’m really looking forward [to next season] kasi number one, the support from the community, from the school mas dumami na compared to before—even before [the] pandemic. So, nung last year and this year, I’m very confident that the team will be better. I just know it for sure.” 

Team Captain Ronquillo shared his sentiments on the loss, saying, “Sa future, ‘di natin alam. Although, yung after the game, masakit talaga siya kasi yesterday sa training, ‘di ko ine-expect na pwede na siya maging last—like pwede na pala siya maging last ng batchmates ko. And hoping pa sana ako na umabot until Saturday or Sunday, kung kailanman yung game sana, pero yung sabi nga ni Billie, siguro mas deserve ng NU. Siguro mas nag-work hard sila kaysa sa amin. And God’s plan na lang din kung ipapapaluin pa ako ni Lord sa La Salle.” 

(Regarding the future, we do not know yet. Although, after the game, it really hurt because yesterday during training, I did not expect that it would be the last, like it could also be the last for my batchmates. I was hoping it would reach Saturday or Sunday, or whenever the game would be, but like what Billie said, maybe NU deserved it more. Maybe they worked hard for it more than we did. And it is also God’s plan if He will still let me play for La Salle.) 

This season-ending loss saw the Green Spikers recover from their previous Season 85 ranking, snagging the bronze medal back to Taft. However, Head Coach Jose Roque remains optimistic to bring home the elusive championship title next season—their first one since all the way back in UAAP Season 66. 

The Scores:

DLSU 1 – Ronquillo 27, Maglinao 17, Anima 12, Kampton 12, Del Pilar 3, Adajar 2, Gloria 0, Guerrero (L) 0 

NU 3 – Buddin 23, Almendras 14, Aringo 11, Disquitado 8, Taguibolos 7, Diao 5, Retamar 5, Belostrino 0, Abanilla 0, Sumagui (L) 0 

Set Scores: 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 21-25

Jaden Alberto

By Jaden Alberto

Tana Melgar

By Tana Melgar

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