The recurring theme for the NU Lady Bulldogs during their post-game interview was “mas ginusto namin manalo”. Indeed, the poise that they showed with their backs against the wall was a testament of their fighting character despite being one of the younger team in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
In contrast, the fight was sapped from the UP Lady Maroons over the same stretch. Just when they were in the cusp of their fourth victory in six matches, circumstances suddenly went gloomy. In a matter of minutes, the jubilant mood in the UP bench turned into sorrow. Trying to find reason with what just happened, Coach Godfrey Okumu and his assistants had a huddle outside the UP dugout for about an hour while the players discussed amongst themselves inside.
One point out of four opportunities is all that UP needed to secure a five-set win. But a point-by-point review reveals where the Lady Maroons could have improved their judgment. One could argue that UP could have taken set four too. But in this case, we’ll pick up from 14-10 in the fifth set.
Lady Maroons lead 14-11
After Aieshalaine Gannaban blocked Roselyn Doria’s attack for match point, Marist Layug pushed her service long to give the Lady Bulldogs a lifeline. With the side-out game in their favor, a safer serve could have developed a different result.
Lady Bulldogs trim UP’s lead, 14-12
While libero Jennifer Nierva was deservingly named Player of the Game, service specialist Bingle Landicho was the lady of the moment. Imagine the pressure bestowed upon her as she marched to serve. One error and it is game over. Instead, she rose to the occasion and found a target in UP libero Rem Altomea. Is it just me or did her beach volleyball experience helped her in this situation?
Altomea gave a low first ball, forcing Ayel Estranero to adjust for her set to Isa Molde. But when the possession went back to UP, the graduating setter delivered the ball again to Molde. The Cebuana attacker had multiple options on where to direct the spike. First, she could have executed a cut shot because Princess Robles was playing deep at Zone 5. Second, the cross-court is also open because Gelina Luceno was late for the block.
Instead, Molde opted a down-the-line hit that sailed out. Point goes to NU. The outcome could have been different if the ball was diverted Carlos who was on the other side. The variety of attacks might confuse the Lady Bulldogs and that would be the opening that UP needed.
NU knocking on the door, 14-13
Landicho delivered a good serve to Altomea but Estranero was able to convert the libero’s poor pass into a nice set at the middle. However, the delay in Gannaban’s hit allowed the NU blockers to regain position. A quick snap of the wrist might have ended the match there for UP.
Estranero gave another set to Molde at the same spot and the Lady Bulldogs were able to neutralize her attack again. Meanwhile, Audrey Paran took advantage of the gap between Estranero, Gannaban, and the net to ram the kill that trimmed the deficit to one.
The F. Jhocson crew forces a deuce
Altomea must have been feeling the pressure at this moment for she made another sub-par first ball reception which forced Estranero to chase the ball once more. With the setter in distress, she delivered a difficult set to, that’s right, Molde again.
An overreception by the rookie UP libero off another Paran attack gave NU another chance to score. But while Carlos was able to receive Lacsina’s spike, Altomea committed a double contact infraction to extend the set.
Lady Bulldogs and Lady Maroons trade points
Lacsina and Luceno, two of NU’s tallest players, had an eye on Molde while Paran manned the opposite. Despite that, UP executed the same play to Molde that has been neutralized multiple times already. This time, it was the hero from the service line who dug Molde’s spike.
When the Lady Maroons tried to vary their attack, Estranero gave an awkward set that Gannaban barely reached. In the succeeding play, Gannaban was late for the block which created a gap on the wall between her and Molde. Lacsina took advantage of this hole to put the ball out of UP’s reach and bring the Lady Bulldogs to match point.
Finally, the Lady Maroons scored courtesy of an NU net touch violation. Even without it, Molde would have scored off a cross-court attack because the ball glanced off Robles and Luceno was late for the possible block.
Winning points for National University
Estranero had to chase Altomea’s pass again, giving Molde a ball that is difficult to attack. Then, Gannaban was a step back away from the net during the block attempt, giving Lacsina a window to spike the Joni Chavez back set through. Lady Bulldogs lead, 16-15.
Another imperfect pass from Altomea to Estranero forced Carlos to adjust her body mid-air just to make contact with the low set. The result? NU’s blockers telegraphed the spike and play continued. But while it was already Carlos who made an attempt, it’s still from the same zone where Molde had multiple unsuccessful attacks. It was clear that the Lady Bulldogs had that side well covered.
In contrast, Molde was on the other side with 5′ 3″ Robles covering her. While the NU rookie hitter has an enviable vertical leap, Molde would have the edge in this match-up once she gets a good set.
But when the Lady Maroons got the ball back, Estranero fed the ball to Carlos again and was blocked. Just when UP had a second chance to tying the set again, Estranero activated Carlos who was a bit far from the net. Throwing the entire motion of her right arm behind the spike, Carlos’ attempt from the same area was stopped and the impact from the block prevented Dorog to extend the rally.
Hats off to the Lady Bulldogs for showing resiliency in this well-deserved victory. As for the Lady Maroons, they would have to shake this game off their memory. Otherwise, it could haunt them in their UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball first round closer against the Adamson Lady Falcons.