by Kristel Satumbaga
Games Wednesday (Mall of Asia Arena)
11:30 a.m. – Presentation of Men’s Individual Awards
12 noon – NU vs FEU (men’s finals)
3:30 p.m. – Presentation of Women’s Individual Awards
4 p.m. – UST vs Ateneo (women’s finals)
University of Santo Tomas moved a victory closer to reclaiming glory in UAAP women’s volleyball after besting fancied Ateneo, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, in Game 1 of their best-of-three championship on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Skippered by season Most Valuable Player Sisi Rondina, the Tigresses pounced on the Lady Eagles on all angles to draw the first blood in their series before a crowd of more than 17,000 fans.
Rondina, who aims to bring the title back in España on her final year, came through with another stellar performance by finishing with 23 points highlighted by 20 kills, two blocks and once ace.
The victory not only avenged the Tigresses’ two elimination losses but also ended the team’s 15 consecutive setbacks against the Lady Eagles dating back January 2012.
They were also a win away from clinching the crown for the first time in nine years.
UST coach Kungfu Reyes said they prepared hard for the net defense of Ateneo, which is the leading blocking team in the eliminations.
“Maganda yung morale ng mga bata. Maganda rin na I have the two best spikers in the team,” said Reyes, referring to the season’s leading spikers Rondina and Eya Laure. (They are in high spirits.)
Laure pumped in 11 points including nine hits.
UST dictated the pace but was sharper in the third set, where they pulled away from a slim 21-20 lead en route to the win.
Back-to-back spikes from Rondina further destroyed the Ateneo’s rock-solid defense led by triple towers Bea De Leon, Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag before an attack error from the Lady Eagles punctuated UST’s win.
Rondina said she is still keeping to her promise of bringing the title back to UST, adding that they still have one match left to accomplish.
“Nag-huddle kami after nung panalo, sabi namin, wala ng bibitaw. Panindigan na natin to hanggang dulo,” said Rondina. (After the win, we told ourselves to hang on tight and fight until the end).
Only six players scored for Ateneo with Tolentino finishing as the lone double-digit scorer with 12 points. Madayag was limited to six points while Bea De Leon only managed four points.
Deanna Wong also struggled for the Katipunan-based squad, making only seven of the team’s 12 excellent sets.
The Tigresses dominated the Lady Eagles in attacks (46-24) and service aces (10-1).
Game 2 is on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.