Top-ranked La Salle, defending champ NU set up repeat of last year’s title series – rezal404

The Lady Spikers celebrate at center court after ousting Eya Laure and the hard-fighting Tigresses in just one game of their Final Four clash.  They battle Bella Belen (photo below) and the Lady Bulldogs for the title starting Sunday.

The Lady Spikers celebrate at center court after ousting Eya Laure and the hard-fighting Tigresses in just one game of their Final Four clash. They battle Bella Belen (photo below) and the Lady Bulldogs for the title starting Sunday. —PHOTO BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ

La Salle came out with all guns cocked and firing but inexplicably lost focus in the third set. National University needed a set to warm up.

Didn’t matter, they needed just one game to bundle out stubborn foes.

The top two seeds in Season 85 of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament played according to their lofty billings and will renew a title series that the No. 1 Lady Spikers would hope to have a different ending to and the Lady Bulldogs seeking a repeat that would ironically be considered an upset.

The Lady Spikers took all the best that University of Santo Tomas could offer in the first two sets and then let it all hang out in the fourth for a dominant finish, with a 26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 25- 19 win over the Tigresses at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday giving La Salle that shot to avenge a lopsided loss to the Lady Bulldogs in last year’s finals.

National U was practically listless despite a close score in the opening frame against No. 3 Adamson, but when the Lady Bulldogs got going, they yielded just 47 points in the next three sets to follow La Salle to the best-of-three title series and get a chance to avenge two one-sided losses in the eliminations.

“We’re happy that we redeemed ourselves (from their only loss of the season) and we’re now in the Finals,” said assistant coach Noel Orcullo, who spoke for La Salle head tactician Ramil de Jesus. “But our journey isn’t over yet.

“There’s still a long way to go and we need to work harder and improve.”

The Lady Bulldogs posted a 22-25, 25-22, 25-15, 25-12 destruction of Adamson in the second game, riding the guns of Bella Belen and Alyssa Solomon to assure that the title series starts on Sunday at 4 pm also at the Big Dome in Cubao, Quezon City.

Angel Canino was showered with “MVP (most valuable player), MVP” chants by the La Salle faithful late in the marathon match. She converted on a lot of clutch hits when the Tigresses desperately tried to stay alive behind the graduating Eya Laure.

“I didn’t let that affect my focus,” Canino, the hands-down Rookie of the Year (ROY) winner and prospective second ROY-MVP after Belen last year, said in Filipino. “I kept telling myself that this is just the seedling and we want to go all the way.”

Without a title

Canino went on to finish with 19 points, while Laure ended her collegiate career with 15 points and without a title.

La Salle was unforgiving on the defensive end, and it was only fitting that its stratospheric front line smothered a Melina Alessandrini attack that sealed the match.

National U will be coming into the title series at a high with the convincing conquest of the Lady Falcons. But the Lady Bulldogs will obviously have at the back of their minds the specter of having lost their two elimination round matches in straight sets to the Lady Spikers.

The Lady Bulldogs, who had a perfect 16-0 campaign last year, has won their last seven games since those twin debacles to the Lady Spikers.

Belen erupted for a career-high 29 points off 22 spikes, five blocks and two aces to go with 19 excellent receptions, while Alyssa Solomon had 21 points built on 17 attacks to complete National U’s two-sided battering ram that doomed the Lady Falcons.

“We’re happy that we won this game. But we didn’t play well at the start. We still have a lot to improve on when we get to the finals. We need to polish our game,” said Belen in Filipino.

Solomon agreed with the reigning MVP, vowing to play better against La Salle in the Finals.

“We won’t stop learning because we didn’t move well in the first set. We will change our mindset every start of the game,” Solomon said.

Vange Alinsug was also instrumental for the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points. Setter Lams Lamina dished out 24 excellent sets, as libero Jennifer Nierva protected the floor with 14 digs and 16 receptions.

Adamson’s first Final Four appearance since 2013 in Season 76 only lasted for one game as coach Jerry Yee’s return in the UAAP also ended with a loss.

Tamarav’s advance

Meanwhile, Mark Calado lifted Far Eastern University to the next phase of the men’s stepladder semifinals after leading the Tamaraws past La Salle, 25-21, 19-25, 25-22, 25-22.

Calado poured in 22 points built on 20 spikes to lead the balanced attack of the Tamaraws and forge a knockout game with No.2 seed University of Santo Tomas also on Sunday.

“My teammates did well. All of them contributed. It’s not just one or two players,” said Calado in Filipino. “Everyone worked hard and our coaches also gave their best.”

Jelord Talisayan had 12 points on top of 17 receptions and seven digs for the Tamaraws. Dryx Saavedra also scored 12.

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