Lady Bulldogs chalk up four-set conquest of Tigresses – rezal404

The Lady Bulldogs (in blue) celebrate their vengeful defanging of the Tigresses, who are left to ponderon what lies ahead with their Final Four ranking uncertain.

CONTRAST OF EMOTIONS The Lady Bulldogs (in blue) celebrate their vengeful defanging of the Tigresses, who are left to ponder on what lies ahead with their Final Four ranking uncertain. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Bella Belen quickly assembled the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs in a huddle following the third set that circled the drain, fully aware that allowing University of Santo Tomas (UST) to win another frame could be fatal.

“I reminded you that [we needed] to win at all cost,” Belen said when asked of that huddle, a crucial element in a 25-16, 25-21, 17-25, 25-14 victory over the Tigresses on Wednesday that all but sewed up No. 2 ranking for the defending champion Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament.

“We’re already up by two sets, just a little more effort and we’ll be there,” Belen went on. “We have to get ahead of them almost. [Because] once they get the advantage, it will be difficult for us since we are prone to errors.”

It was a win that not only avenged a five-set loss in the first round, but also gave the Lady Bulldogs the second twice-to-beat privilege after they rose to 10-3 and dropped the Tigresses to 9-4, tied for third spot with idle Adamson.

Even with both sides having one game left, and even if National loses to Ateneo and Santo Tomas beats University of the Philippines (UP) to close out the elimination round, the Lady Bulldogs will take No. 2 ranking by losing just four sets in their head-to-head with the Tigresses.

Adamson also has two wins over the Santo Tomas in the elimination round, and ending up tied with the Lady Falcons will put the Tigresses at No. 4 and a twice-to-win task against powerhouse league leader La Salle.

Relentless attack

The Lady Falcons, who haven’t beaten the Lady Bulldogs this year and could hope to be No. 3 at best, close out against ousted Far Eastern University on Sunday, with the National-Ateneo tussle slated the day before where the Lady Spikers take on lightweight University of the East. Santo Tomas versus UP will bring the curtains down on the elimination round on Sunday at FilOil EcoOil Centre.

Alyssa Solomon was at the forefront of the relentless NU attack, finishing with 17 points highlighted by 15 kills, while Belen and Evangeline Alinsug had 16 and 10 points, respectively, as the Lady Bulldogs exacted sweet revenge on the Tigresses, who conquered NU in the first round that ended a 20-game win streak.

Santo Tomas surely hoped it won this one, which would have counted more moving forward.

“We came up short in this game. We will go back to the drawing board, study the stats and prepare again for our next game,” said Santo Tomas coach Kungfu Reyes. “The turning point came in the second set when we were up by four before we committed lapses.”

Hounded by errors

“We don’t have control anymore on where we might end up in the Final Four. We just have to focus on preparing ourselves regardless of whom we face,” said Reyes.

Eya Laure led the Tigresses with 17 points while middle blocker Imee Hernandez contributed 14 points and four blocks in the loss that hurt their chances of advancing to the title series.

“They (Lady Bulldogs) came in more prepared and wanted this game more than we did. What we can do is to double and even triple our efforts in practice starting tomorrow as we prepare for our succeeding games,” said Laure.

Errors hounded the Tigresses in the first set, which the Lady Bulldogs quickly exploited coupled by efficient blocking and defense on their end.

Laure’s crosscourt strike pulled them within three before the Tigresses fell into an array of blunders that widened the gap, 22-13, courtesy of a Belen block on Jonna Perdido.

The Tigresses were off to a great start in the second set, but the defending champions again came out more hungry and focused.

Alinsug and Solomon punctured holes in the UST defense as the Lady Bulldogs wiped out a four-point deficit and turned it to a 23-20 lead on an energetic down-the-line drive by Belen and Alinsug’s push.

“I saw how we played out there and we were able to correct ourselves in terms of blocking and service,” said Solomon.

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