With their backs against the ropes, the Ateneo Lady Eagles threw a counterpunch that stunned the UST Golden Tigresses. They have forced a rubber match for the UAAP Season 81 title after knocking down the Espana crew in four sets at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Lady Eagles and Golden Tigresses split first two sets
Ateneo made a good start to take an 8-5 lead going into the first technical timeout. However, UST embarked on a 7-4 run to take a 16-12 advantage going to the second TTO.
The Lady Eagles responded by levelling the count at 21 courtesy of a Ponggay Gaston attack. Both squads traded points until 23-all before Caitlyn Viray gave set point to the Golden Tigresses. But Bea de Leon’s kill block forced a deuce. Kat Tolentino’s quick strike off a UST overreception and Eya Laure’s attack error gave the opening set to Ateneo, 26-24.
UST committed 13 unforced errors in set one while Ateneo only had six.
The Golden Tigresses dominated set two by racing to an 8-2 advantage and never looked back. Laure’s down-the-line hit made the count 16-9 for UST and Ysa Jimenez’ attack brought the tally to 19-14. Ateneo did not score since. Jimenez’ consecutive aces brought their lead back to seven, 21-14.
Ateneo’s double contact error gave set point to UST while Viray’s kill block on De Leon clinched set two for the Golden Tigresses, 25-14. The Espana crew limited their errors to five in set two.
Ateneo claim sets three and four
Bicar’s double contact error gave the Lady Eagles a 16-13 edge. However, UST forced a deadlock at 17 with a Viray kill block on Maddie Madayag. But Coach Oliver Almadro’s crew opened up a 22-19 advantage after a Laure attack error.
Deanna Wong’s service ace gave Ateneo set point but her succeeding service error gave UST some life. However, De Leon’s attack went through the UST blockers to win set three, 25-21. The Lady Eagles had a 13-8 edge in attack points and a 4-2 edge in blocks.
It was all Ateneo in set four. An 8-4 advantage became a 16-7 rout and the Lady Eagles pounced on UST’s blunders. The lead grew to as much as twelve points, 21-9, after a successful Tolentino attack. Rondina tried to lead the Golden Tigresses for one last push but to no avail.
Dani Ravena’s easy over brought the Katipunan crew to match point but Ateneo’s service error kept the Golden Tigressees in the game. The Lady Eagles closed the fourth set and the match at 25-15. This is Ateneo’s fifth win in six Finals matches at the MOA Arena.
Ravena is named player of the game with 12 receptions and 22 digs. Madayag paced the Lady Eagles with 17 markers while De Leon added 13. Tolentino contributed 11 while Gaston had eight more points compared to her Game 1 output.
Eya Laure injured
The Season 81 Rookie of the Year shook off her foot in one of her attacks in the second set. That injury was aggravated early in the third set when she stepped on Tolentino while going for a spike. She went down in obvious pain while clutching her ankle. Her father, former PBA player Eddie Laure carried her to the UST locker room.
She was able to come back after her ankle was taped and iced. However, she was obviously less than 100 percent when her first attack after returning was short.