Coming back from a 16-7 deficit at the second technical timeout of the third set to tie the score at 24, we thought that the composure and experience of the FEU Lady Tamaraws will prevail to salvage a straight-sets victory. After all, they have dominated the UP Lady Fighting Maroons in the first two sets.
But from that moment, the tide was turned. The squad of coach Godfrey Okumu clinched the set, 26-24, and never looked back to win Game One of the PVL Collegiate Conference 2018 Championship in five sets. It was the reversal in momentum that brought the UP crowd to a frenzy and the FEU supporters in disbelief especially how handily the George Pascua-coached team won the first two sets.
First set – UP got served
The championship inexperience of the Lady Fighting Maroons showed when they were having difficulties fielding the service of the Lady Tamaraws. In total, FEU got nine service aces in that set alone as compared to UP’s three. Aside from the aces, there have been multiple serves that the UP players were not able to receive well. This resulted to a number of free balls that helped FEU to convert on ten attack points and rack up four points off opponent’s errors.
Celine Domingo’s timing on the net as well as Heather Guino-o’ and Lycha Ebon’s spikes were very impressive in the first set as the Lady Tamaraws often targeted the gap between Zone 1 and Zone 6. The likes of Roselyn Rosier and libero Remelyn Altomea were having a tough time converting digs which translated to a wide winning margin.
Second set – dominance at the end
UP was able to put up a fierce resistance courtesy of Rosier, Marian Buitre, and Isa Molde. However, the Lady Tamaraws were still able to snatch the set at the end. The Lady Fighting Maroons were leading 21-19 before a 6-1 run gave the set to FEU. Still, the Morayta-based spikers had four more attack points (10-6) as compared to their counterparts. Meanwhile, UP was able to narrow the gap by matching the kills blocks and aces of the Tamaraws. But despite the valiant effort, FEU was just one set away from a victory.
Third set – Maroon resurgence
It seemed as if UP was on their way to an easy victory. But the championship composure of the Lady Tamaraws emerged to extend the set. However, turnovers and miscommunication killed them in the end while the likes of Buitre, Aie Gannaban, and Marist Layug carried the scoring load for the Lady Maroons. While FEU still had more attack points for this set (13-10), it was their 13 errors that let the match slip away.
Coach Pascua also made an interesting substitution for Guino-o and Kyle Negrito in favor of Maria Angelica Cayuna and Carlota Hernandez. It seems to be the turning point for this match because FEU hasn’t been the same dangerous squad since. But while they still have the upper hand in sets, the momentum has shifted to the Diliman-based volleybelles and UP contingent started to rattle the FEU players with their boisterous cheers.
Fourth set – mind the net
FEU seemed shell-shocked in the fourth set that they are not converting their attacks well. Credit that as well to the UP net defenders such as Layug and Gannaban who were able to read the plays of the Lady Tamaraws. Although they only registered two kill blocks, they were able to contain the spikes Domingo and Jerrili Malabanan in the fourth. The Lady Maroons were also able to force their opponents to six errors.
As the defense settles in, Buitre, Rosier, and Molde placed the ball at the gaps of the FEU defense. If not for the four service aces of FEU, the winning gap would have been wider. Beyond the numbers, the Lady Tamaraws was in disarray during the fourth set. They had a number of missed receptions and questionable formations that UP was able to capitalize. But the 17 attack points of the Lady Maroons as compared to only nine for the Lady Tamaraws proved to be the catalyst for a fifth and deciding set.
Fifth set – Maroon domination
The Lady Tamaraws only scored five points in the quick fifth set but two of those came off UP errors. Only Ebon and Jeanette Villareal were able to register attack points for FEU while UP was firing on all cylinders. Layug continued her dominance in the net while the UP spikers kept on rolling. What seemed like a losing cause an hour ago became a gritty performance that brought them closer to the title.
Molde led the Lady Maroons in scoring with 16 points while Rosier tallied 15. Buitre added 14 while Gannaban contributed 11. Layug got nine points, five off blocks, while Ayel Estrañero had two points. For FEU, Guino-o led all scorers with 16 and Domingo matched Molde’s output. Ebon collected 14 while Malabanan had a decent game with 12. Negrito had seven while Villareal and Czarina Carandang combined for seven points.
The FEU Lady Tamaraws have a huge advantage on service aces (20-9) but most of them were tallied in the first two sets. Likewise, that edge is negated by their 35 errors as compared to UP’s 24. Also, UP connected on three more spikes (48-45) and has a better spike success rate (27.75% to 23.08%). The Lady Maroons also had two more blocks (10-8).
Meanwhile, FEU has three more excellent digs (74-71) but the Lady Fighting Maroons have two more excellent sets (33-31). Ria Duremdes was an ace on defense for the Lady Tamaraws with 27 excellent digs, one less than Molde and Rosier’s combined tally. FEU also has a slight edge in receptions (27-26) but UP has a small edge in reception percentage (30.23% to 29%).
Will the Lady Tamaraws force a third match or will the Lady Fighting Maroons clinch their first major tournament title in 36 years? Let’s all witness Game Two of the PVL Collegiate Conference 2018 Finals on September 12, 2018 at 6 pm. You may watch the game live on ABS-CBN S+A, ABS-CBN S+A HD, or via livestream at sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/pvl.