Championship games shouldn’t look this easy. But credit the UST Golden Tigresses for playing to their strengths in taking Game One of the Season 81 Finals. Their masterful three-set performance against the Ateneo Lady Eagles moved them one win away from the title.
No answer for Rondina and Bicar
The UST team captain imposed her will on this game that she even had a running attack. Coach Kung Fu Reyes and the UST did a masterful job in giving her varying attacks that left Ateneo unsettled.
The Cebuana had 23 points to go with 12 digs and five receptions. But that won’t be possible if not for the decision making of Alina Bicar who should be co-Game MVP.
It’s fascinating that she lost her starting role to Mafe Galanza at one point of the season. Now, there’s no doubt that she’s the rightful setter in UST’s quick tempo game.
That shoot set has been money for Bicar and Rondina. They played it in a pace that Bea de Leon or Maddie Madayag can’t keep up with. The result? Balls landing in the corner of Ateneo’s Zone 1 or cuts to Zone 4. The Lady Eagles should address this to force a deciding game. Otherwise, it’s game over.
Bicar made sure that everyone got involved in the offense. Eya Laure only had 11 points but they came at the right moments. Kecelyn Galdones and Caitlyn Viray outscored Madayag and De Leon, 12-10.
First ball woes for the Lady Eagles
That has been the common theme in all Ateneo losses this season. UST challenged their first ball reception by targeting Kim Gequillana and Ponggay Gaston in their serves. The plan worked as the Golden Tigresses connected on ten aces, three of which from emerging service specialist Ysa Jimenez.
In contrast, those blunders composed most of Ateneo’s 17 unforced errors. They were not able to counter UST’s service game either as they only tallied one ace from Madayag.
Aside from the aces, poorly passed balls to Deanna Wong didn’t help Coach Oliver Almadro’s squad either. No wonder they had a difficult time making their middle game work as Wong only had seven great sets. In one way or another, that could have affected the Lady Eagles’ scoring too.
Kat Tolentino was the lone bright spot for Ateneo with 12 points. She also helped sparked a rally in the third set wherein they came to within a point, 21-20. Aside from her, everyone else was silent. Open spikers Gaston, Erika Raagas, and Jules Samonte combined for eight points. Likewise, Madayag only had six while De Leon made four.
Coach Oliver Almadro and the Lady Eagles will have three days to find a remedy for their reception troubles. If they don’t, they will see the Golden Tigresses hoisting the championship trophy at their expense.
One win away from the crown
UST’s victory over Ateneo in UAAP women’s volleyball was a long time coming. It was their first victory against the Lady Eagles since Season 74 wherein Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, and Maruja Banaticla were still playing for the Golden Tigresses.
What a time for it to come as well. They are just one win away from their first title since Season 72 and 17th overall. But they have to remain focused until that happens because the Lady Eagles won’t top the elimination round for nothing. They still have talented players on their side and good passes can activate their dangerous middle hitters.
Sometimes, the last step is the longest. The Golden Tigresses may have the trophy on their sights but it would take another splendid performance to actually own it. The Lady Eagles will try to land the counterpunch on Wednesday. But they will land the killer blow if they maintain the same level of confidence and composure.