The National Lady Bulldogs escaped a tenacious Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws in Game 1 of the PVL Collegiate Conference finals and should the Lady Bulldogs take Game 2, they will end their campaign with a perfect run & historic three-peat.
FEU, for their part, want to make it into a dogfight dragging the series to an exciting do or die game.
Before we talk about Game 2 let’s first take a look at what happened in Game 1. In a tight four set match (25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 26-24) it was a battle of bombs and sharp kills as both teams, bannered by their stars Jaja Santiago and Chinchin Basas, spewed fire at the Filoil Flying V Centre last Wednesday.
As mentioned in my pre-game analysis, I was right to back NU to win in either 4 or 5 sets, which was largely based on the decision of Bernadeth Pons and Kyla Atienza to not play due to their commitments in UAAP beach volleyball tournament.
NU problem protecting leads
The Lady Bulldogs looked like they dictated the pace of the game for long periods as they built big leads multiple times during the match, only to be rattled and lose momentum to a determined Lady Tams rallied by Chin Basas and Cza Carandang.
It seems that NU still don’t grasp the maturity to protect a lead; something that they should be concerned with, particularly heading into a potential title deciding game. This was no more telling than in the fourth set where they held a comfortable lead before FEU mounted a comeback to force the game to a deuce. Luckily, FEU also struggled giving away the last 2 points of the set to the Lady Bulldogs via hitting errors.
On a positive note, it was a delight for NU’s coach Babes to see Valdez display a heart of steel by posting a 21 and 7 performance. As the sole libero for the entire match, Valdez provided Jasmin Nabor the service to outplay the tandem of Cayuna and Negrito, 35.11% to 28.57%. It was also positive to note that three Bulldogs reached double digit scores in Santiago, Sato and Paran.
Should the Lady Bulldogs achieve consistency in the Game 2, along with Aiko and Jorelle chipping in points, then I think it will be the last game in the conference this year.
FEU’s own issues
FEU on the other hand, showed heart and determination despite missing their team captain, Pons and starting libero, Atienza. They had several chances to secure a comeback during the game, only to succumb to their own immaturities. Gifting 27 points to the Bulldogs during the match, the Lady Tams ran out of fuel especially in the fourth where both Villareal and Domingo committed crucial errors late in the set, points that ultimately gifted NU the match.
Still, Coach George was satisfied by their performance in Game 1. Third year players Villareal and Carandang, who had their breakout matches in the semis continued to provide scoring options to the Tamaraws.
What they need to focus on is the toss-up between the two setters. Gel Cayuna had underwhelming matches during the semi’s and in Game 1. She tends to lose her composure, giving too low sets to the middle, and sets too close to the net which her wingers could not compensate for.
Negrito on the other hand, despite being the veteran, also tends to crumble at crucial points in the match during which she tends to set exclusively to her wings.
Should FEU want to extend this series to a third and final match, they need to focus on one thing – variety.
My prediction for Game 2
Can the NU Lady Bulldogs sweep the series or can the Lady Tamaraws drag them to a decider? I really want it to go to a decider, but with Pons and Atienza still unsure of they are playing or not, I think that NU will win this match and complete a rare three-peat.
Probability of winning: NU (55%), FEU (45%)