UST, Adamson supercharge chase for no. 2 – with NU lurking nearby – rezal404

UST Tigresses' Eya Laure and Imee Hernandez.  MARLO CUETO/

UST Tigresses’ Eya Laure and Imee Hernandez. MARLO CUETO/

As the game boiled down to its final play, Imee Hernandez soared to defuse a powerful kill attempt by Faith Nisperos.

The steady University of Santo Tomas (UST) middle blocker was credited with the point and then coolly exchanged high fives with her teammates as pandemonium erupted across the Philsports Arena.

Hernandez finished a career night on Saturday with 24 points built on 19 attacks and the Tigresses ran off with an all-important 25-22, 25-20, 27-29, 25-21 victory over the Ateneo Blue Eagles to move on the doorstep of a Final Fourth in the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball.

“I just did my role today and showed the maturity that we seniors should display,” Hernandez said after adding three blocks and two aces to her scoreline. “That was my mindset coming into the game.”

“But of course, we should not be content with this (win). We have to continue working on becoming better compared to our previous performance,” she added.

For good reason.

UST’s eighth win in 11 games, when viewed against the larger scheme of things, only kept the team in step with Adamson which, earlier in the day, also rose to an 8-3 (win-loss) record.

And like the Tigresses against the Blue Eagles, the Lady Falcons encountered stubborn resistance from an also-ran University of the East (UE) before forging a 25-16, 25-19, 20-25, 27-25 win over the Lady Warriors .

The result generated a three-way footrace for the all-important No. 2 spot behind idle leader La Salle (9-1). The top two teams at the end of the elimination round will collect twice-to-beat bonuses entering the Final Four.

National University (NU) is in that mix with a 7-3 record and the defending champions are expected to catch UST and Adamson when they battle eliminated University of the Philippines (UP) on Sunday.

And the Tigresses are not keeping their intentions a secret.

“If there’s already a No. 1, we will aim for no. 2. This is a big win for us, but [we have] three more games to go. We have to beat these teams if we want to achieve our goal,” said UST coach Kungfu Reyes.

mastermind offense

UST's Imee Hernandez (left) goes up to block an attempt from Ateneo's Faith Nisperos.  – MARLO CUETO/

UST’s Imee Hernandez (left) goes up to block an attempt from Ateneo’s Faith Nisperos. – MARLO CUETO/

Hernandez and Laure proved UST has the firepower to hit the goal of finishing in the top two and Cassie Carballo proved she can run the Tigresses’ offense seamlessly. Carballo was again the mastermind of the UST attack, lobbing 24 excellent sets to activate the team’s spike crew, which also includes Milena Alessandrini and rookie Regina Jurado.

“The second round is not yet done. There are a lot of things that can happen. On our end, we have to continue working on the things that we need to improve and work on strengthening our lineup coming off the bench,” said Reyes.

Alessandrini and Jurado added 10 points each as UST survived a strong game from Nisperos, who tried to keep Ateneo’s semifinal hopes beating with a season-high 31 points.

Instead, the Blue Eagles found the door shut to their faces. And a victory by NU over UP, which many see as a foregone conclusion, will formally eliminate Ateneo.

Kate Santiago imposed herself at the net with 18 points built on 16 attacks while Trisha Tubu smashed her way to 11 attacks out of 13 points to help Adamson wiggle out of an unexpectedly tight contest against UE.

“It was a long game and they almost had us. Good thing, we were able to recover,” said Adamson coach Jerry Yee, who just last Friday steered St. Benilde to the NCAA women’s volleyball crown.

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