It definitely wasn’t easy. But the Ateneo Lady Eagles will return to the championship round of UAAP women’s volleyball after eliminating the gritty FEU Lady Tamaraws in four sets. The victory by the Katipunan crew clinched their seventh Finals appearance in the last eight seasons.
Lady Eagles soar to set one victory
The Lady Eagles had a quick 3-1 start in the opening set before the Lady Tamaraws forced a deadlock at three. A tight contest ensued until Angel Cayuna’s illegal back row attack gave Ateneo an 8-7 advantage going into the first technical timeout. But Coach Oliver Almadro’s crew embarked on a 6-0 run to take a 16-10 lead.
Both teams basically traded points since. However, the Lady Tamaraws couldn’t break the four-point barrier while playing catch-up. Errors killed FEU as their four touches infraction handed set point to Ateneo at 24-19. But Jerrili Malabanan and Heather Guino-o took two points back to narrow the gap at 24-20.
Kyle Negrito’s push sailed wide left to close the first frame at 25-20 for the Lady Eagles. That error is one of FEU’s 11 in the first set alone. Four of those mistakes came from the service line. That negates the Lady Tamaraws 11-8 margin in attack points and 3-2 edge in service aces. Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles had the upper hand in blocks, 4-1.
FEU levels set count
The Lady Tamaraws blasted a 6-2 run led by Guino-o to start the second set. They entered the first TTO with an 8-3 lead but Ateneo roared back to tie the count at 14 courtesy of Bea de Leon and Kat Tolentino. Guino-o’s attack went too long to give the driver’s seat to the Lady Eagles while Jules Samonte’s attack went through the block to extend their favor to two, 14-12.
The Lady Eagles were ahead, 18-15, when Negrito sparked a 6-0 run to reclaim the upper hand at 21-18. Gaston’s attack error brought FEU to within two points from claiming set two when Janel Maraguinot’s 1-2 play established a 23-20 count.
Malabanan’s down the line strike brought the Lady Tamaraws to set point while Tolentino took one back to a keep Ateneo alive. But Vanessa Gandler’s serve made contact with the antenna to end set two for FEU, 25-21. The Lady Tamaraws reduced their errors to four while the Lady Eagles committed nine.
Ateneo moves one set away from victory
The two-time UAAP champions started the chapter with a 4-2 run that FEU was able to knot with a 2-0 spurt of their own. Both teams traded points until Madayag’s ace settled an 8-7 advantage for the Lady Eagles. But the Lady Tamaraws kept the game close until the took the lead at 11-10.
Coach Almadro’s troops responded with a 6-1 lead to own a 16-12 lead heading into the second TTO. However, Coach Pascua brought back Negrito into the game which allowed FEU to narrow the gap to one, 17-16. A four touches infraction and Samonte’s soft tip stretched Ateneo’s lead to three, 19-16.
The Lady Tamaraws trimmed the gap to 19-18 before the Lady Eagles tallied three unanswered to have a 22-18 cushion. FEU fought back to 22-20 but Ateneo scored the next two points to arrive at set point, 24-20.
But FEU was not yet done. Two Ateneo errors and an attack by Guino-o put pressure on the Lady Eagles. Gaston’s attack that went off the block brought the Lady Eagles to the hill, 25-23. The Lady Tamaraws committed 13 errors in set three.
One big fight back to the Finals
Tolentino and Samonte carried the Lady Eagles to a 9-1 lead early in the fourth. Malabanan’s attack error made it 8-1 and the Lady Tamaraws were not able to recover. The Lady Eagles swung for the fences by extending the rout to 13-4. But FEU will not go down without a fight by reducing the gap to five, 15-10.
The Lady Eagles provided the killer blows from that stage. Tolentino’s hit was not dug by Buding Duremdes to mount a ten-point margin, 21-11. Guino-o’s attack error pulled Ateneo to within two points of the win. Check ball on Gaston’s attack brought Ateneo to match point but FEU took two points back.
Tolentino smashed the ball down the line to end the fourth set and the match at 25-14. The Ateneo opposite hitter is named player of the game with 17 attacks and two kill blocks.
The Ateneo Lady Eagles will face the UST Golden Tigresses in the best-of-three Finals that will start on May 11 (Saturday), 4 pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
While FEU had a 47-44 edge in attacks and a 7-4 advantage in aces, the Lady Eagles had a 12-4 dominance in blocks. But unforced errors killed the Lady Tamaraws in this game as they committed 36 while Ateneo only had 24.