It’s never over until the game clock or the score says so.
That’s what Game Two of the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference 2018 Finals reminded us, not once but twice. Ever the bridesmaid, the FEU Lady Tamaraws fought salvage their date with destiny. But they were once again left in the altar as the UP Lady Fighting Maroons gave them a dose of their own medicine to clinch the crown. Both teams were pushed with their backs against the wall. It’s just that the Godfrey Okumu-coached squad saved the best for last.
UP dominates the first two sets
UP picked up where they left off in Game One to dominate the first and second sets, 25-20 and 25-18. In set one, the UP Lady Maroons won courtesy of having two more kill blocks than FEU (3-1) while committing less errors (5-9). Marist Layug had the number of the FEU spikers and she was able to set the tone. In the second set, UP got more aggressive with 16 attack points as compared to FEU’s five. However, the Lady Tamaraws’ two service aces kept the game closer than it should be.
FEU completes major comeback in set three
The Lady Maroons raced to an 8-0 lead which ultimately became a 13-4 advantage thanks to courtesy of Layug, Isa Molde, and Aie Gannaban. Everyone thought that the championship will be theirs in straight sets. Everyone but the Lady Tamaraws.
Jerrili Malabanan was very instrumental in FEU’s major comeback to finally tie the game at 13. The Katipunan-based volleybelles responded to take a 16-14 lead to the second technical time-out but their body language was altered out of shock with what happened. Nerves got the better of UP as they still had a chance to win with the score tied at 23. But Layug touched the net and misreceived an Ayel Estreñero set to give the set to George Pascua’s troops.
FEU lived to fight another set thanks to their 13 attack points as compared to UP’s nine. While UP had more service aces and less errors, the Lady Tamaraws could care less as they gained confidence to repeat what the Lady Maroons did to them in Game One. That enthusiasm carried over to the fourth set.
Lady Tamaraws took control in the fourth
UP never knew what hit them in set three. As a result, they seemed to be in a daze when they took the floor in the fourth set. Surprisingly, the Lady Maroons had two more attack points in the set (11-9). However, FEU made up for the deficit in blocks (2-0). But the Lady Tamaraws separated themselves in service aces (5-0). Mind you that set four ended at 25-20, FEU. If not for those aces especially from Heather Guino-o and Kyle Negrito, the gap would have been smaller. Still, the Lady Tamaraws trounced UP to force a fifth and deciding set.
The dramatic fifth set
The Lady Maroons were still reeling from the momentous comeback of the Lady Tamaraws in set three. With set four also going FEU’s way, the pressure for them is definitely mounting and it showed during the early goings of the short but intense fifth set. The confidence of the FEU players was sky high that they raced to a 13-7 lead courtesy of Negrito, Guino-o, Lycha Ebon, Czarina Carandang, and Jeannette Villareal.
If UP wants to win the title at 15 points, they cannot give another point to FEU anymore. Then, it happened.
Ebon’s tip failed to clear the net, making the count 13-8. Estrañero connected on two aces to inch closer at 13-10. From that moment, the UP team captain targeted FEU libero Ria Duremdes with her serve to give her a harder time adjusting on defense. Molde scored on two spikes off blockers and Gannaban blocked Ebon to level the set at 13. Now, it’s FEU’s turn to be lost in the trance.
Being the MVP that she is, Molde made one more successful cross-court spike before the calm and collected Estrañero converted another ace off a floating serve that landed in front of Duremdes to snatch the match and the title away from the Lady Tamaraws. Giving everything she had, the UP setter laid on the floor while screaming in jubilation and pounding the volleyball floor. Hugs were given and tears fell as confetti dropped from the rafters.
It’s been 36 years since the UP Lady Maroons won a major volleyball tournament. With a wait that long, it’s no wonder that those who played and supported for the squad were in cloud nine when the title was won. As for FEU, they gave everything their opponents can handle but fell short for the second-straight PVL Collegiate Conference.
UP had the edge in spikes, 52-45, courtesy of Molde’s 22 which led all scorers. However, the Morayta-based volleybelles had more spike attempts, 198-183. Blocks are pretty even at 7-6 for FEU while the Lady Tamaraws won the ace battle, 14-10. Errors went UP’s way as the had only 35 as compared to FEU’s 40.
Layug and Marian Buitre scored 12 apiece for UP while Roselyn Rosier collected ten markers. Estrañero and Gannaban had six apiece. On the other hand, Ebon led FEU in scoring with 13 while Malabanan and Villareal had 12 and 10, respectively. Carandang had nine while Guino-o and Negrito had eight apiece. France Ronquillo contributed five while Ivana Agudo had one point.
Duremdes was excellent on defense with 33 excellent digs but UP had more in total, 84-75. FEU edged UP in excellent sets, 31-28, but all of UP’s sets came from their captain Estrañero. Out of their total, FEU captain Negrito had 19. The Lady Tamaraws also dominated in receptions (33-25) and reception success rate (35.1-28.7%).
What’s next for both teams?
The PVL Collegiate Conference 2018 serves as a tune-up for the UAAP Season 81 volleyball competitions. With this championship, the UP Lady Maroons cannot be taken lightly the other squads and the return of Tots Carlos will make them a more formidable unit. Plus, this tournament gave valuable play-off experience especially for their younger players like Rosier and Layug. Likewise, Coach Okumu has found the rotation that can translate to more victories.
As for the FEU Lady Tamaraws, they will look to improve from their runner-up in Season 80 with a young but talented roster. Diddle blocker Celine Domingo can start her road to recovery from a knee injury as well. It will take a while before Coach Pascua and his players will recover from this defeat. But once Season 81’s match schedule is released, they will all be circling the date when they face UP again.