Lady Falcons, Tigresses go through wringer in uphill battle to Final Four – rezal404

The Tigresses celebrate a hard-earned win over the Lady Maroons.  —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

The Tigresses celebrate a hard-earned win over the Lady Maroons. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Adamson and University of Santo Tomas took the long road to close out their elimination round schedules with victories in Season 85 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.

And it’s about to get harder for both the Lady Falcons and Growling Tigresses in their respective quests moving forward.

Adamson downed Far Eastern University, 25-22, 28-26, 25-15, 25-17, on Sunday to seal no. 3 ranking, before Santo Tomas carved out a 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 19 -25, 15-6 victory over the University of the Philippines as both take winning feelings ahead of the Final Four that starts on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Falcons and Tigresses will be clashing with higher-ranked foes in the semifinals, with Adamson tangling with defending champion National University (NU) and fourth-ranked Santo Tomas colliding with No. 1 La Salle.

They need to beat those powerhouses two straight times to advance to the title series and it is a challenge the lower-ranked teams are not about to back out of.

“This is an opportunity for greatness. We won a set or two (against NU in the elimination round), so it means we have a chance,” said Adamson coach Jerry Yee, who lost both matches with the Lady Bulldogs in the eliminations.

‘Have to play right’

“We know we can fight, we just have to play right,” said Yee, whose solid core of hitters in Trisha Tubu, Lucille Almonte, Kate Santiago and middle blocker Lorence Toring will play pivotal roles.

Beating defending champion NU twice will catapult the Lady Falcons back to the Finals for the first time since Season 70, where they lost in the title series to Far Eastern.

That season was also the finest finish in the elimination round for the Lady Falcons prior to this one where they compiled a 10-4 record.

“We were just off against them in the second round, said skipper Louie Romero of a 25-22, 25-19, 25-27, 22-25, 15-10 loss last March 1. “We have to play solidly as a team if we want to win.”

“We never expected to be here. We’ll prepare hard and make sure to execute well. It’s going to be now or never,” said Romero.

Santo Tomas is responsible for La Salle’s only loss of the season and team leader Eya Laure is all pumped up after a sterling 28-point effort against the Lady Maroons.

“We have an ongoing rivalry with La Salle and it’s quite motivating. We know that they will come prepared,” said Laure, the tournament’s leading scorer. “La Salle is La Salle. While they have a strong system in place, we will just continue to match it with our own system.”

Absent stars

“We will bring the lessons that we’ve learned after this game reached five sets,” said Santo Tomas coach Kungfu Reyes, whose charges also closed out at 10-4 but lost in the quotient to draw La Salle. “These things we will treasure going into the Final Four.”

Laure scored the Tigresses’ final five points, as the squad made do even without Bernadette Pepito, who was out due to dehydration and Filipino-Italian Milena Alessandrini, who had to sit out because of a nagging knee injury.

Both, though, are expected back come Wednesday.

Regina Jurado contributed 15 points to the Tigresses’ cause, Imee Hernandez and Renee Peñafiel added 14 and 11 points, while gutsy setter Cassie Carballo had 20 excellent sets. Xyza Gula had 22 digs and 11 receptions.

“Some of the players stepped up in the absence of those who were not able to play,” Laure added. “They embraced their roles and accepted the challenge.” INQ

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