LA SALLE mounted an impressive comeback after being down two sets to dethrone National University in a thrilling UAAP women's volleyball tournament final Sunday.

15 May 2023

LA SALLE mounted an impressive comeback after being down two sets to dethrone National University in a thrilling UAAP women’s volleyball tournament final Sunday.

In front of a crowd of 20,514 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena, La Salle secured their first championship in five years with a hard-fought victory of 19-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-17, 15-10.

National University faced the challenge without their star player Sheena Toring, who had suffered a partial ACL tear in her left knee during the previous Finals match after an unfortunate landing on Thea Gagate’s foot.

Despite the absence of their ace middle blocker, NU displayed great determination and claimed the first two sets, appearing poised to force a deciding match.

However, La Salle, the league’s third most successful program and now the proud owners of their 12th crown overall, exhibited unwavering resolve as they fought back to win the next two sets, extending the match.

In the deciding set, a quick play by Gagate propelled the Lady Spikers to a 5-1 lead, but Alyssa Solomon led a spirited comeback for the Lady Bulldogs, eventually tying the match at 7-7.

Gagate once again took charge, executing a quick play and consecutive blocks to put La Salle ahead at 13-9.

With Alleiah Malaluan scoring a crucial point for the Lady Spikers, they found themselves at championship point, only for Solomon’s kill to give the Lady Bulldogs a lifeline.

In the end, it was Gagate who sealed the title with a decisive quick play, bringing her total points to 17 for the match and securing the championship for the Lady Spikers.

The league’s newest women’s volleyball rivalry, La Salle avenged last season’s Finals defeat to NU, which completed a perfect 16-0 campaign.

The Lady Spikers also won all of their four meetings with the Lady Bulldogs this year.

Newly-minted Rookie-MVP Angel Canino had six service aces for a 19-point outing and had eight receptions while setter Mars Alba tossed in 16 excellent sets to become the Finals MVP.

Newcomer Shevana Laput had five blocks, including two on Mhicaela Belen in the fifth set, to finish with 12 points while Fifi Sharma added 11 points for La Salle.

The defeat negated Alyssa Solomon’s season-high 34 points for NU. Mhicaela Belen was the other Lady Bulldog in double digits with 11 points.

NU snags 3rd straight men’s volleyball diadem

Earlier, NU annexed its third consecutive men’s volleyball championship and completed a perfect 16-0 season after a 25-20, 25-21, 25-20 conquest of University of Santo Tomas.

Mike Buddin capped a remarkable first season for the Bulldogs with 20 points on 18-of-34 kills and 10 receptions, while setter Josh Retamar was named the Finals MVP after logging 17 excellent sets and matching Nico Almendras’ team-best two blocks.

Extending its winning streak to 34 matches dating back from 2019, NU became the first team to complete an unbeaten season since Marck Espejo-led Ateneo won all of its 16 matches in 2017.

“Pumunta kami dito talagang nakita ko sa players ko na gusto nilang manalo. Credit sa mga player ko talagang tinrabaho namin after ng Game 1 namin alam namin yung lapses namin buti na lang itong Game 2 lumabas talaga yung gusto namin mangyari sa loob ng court and nakuha namin yung game,” said Bulldogs coach Dante Alinsunurin.

“Sobrang happy kami kasi first time na mangyari sa NU na makasweep kami, makuha namin yung three-peat, and yung history namin na 34-game winning streak,” he added.

La Salle’s Jolina Dela Cruz and Canino swept the Best Outside Spiker awards, while Far Eastern University’s Jov Fernandez copped the Best Opposite Spiker trophy.

Gagate and University of the Philippines’ Niña Ytang bagged the 1st and 2nd Best Middle Blocker award, respectively. Alba took the Best Setter honors while UST’s Det Pepito secured the Best Libero plum.

Despite the defeat, it was still a great season for the Golden Spikers, who pushed the Bulldogs to the limit in the series opener before falling short in their bid to pull off a reversal.

Newly-minted Rookie-MVP Josh Ybañez led the way for UST with 13 points while GBoy de Vega chipped in 10 points.

“For this season, we already overachieved when we reached the Finals,” said Golden Spikers coach Odjie Mamon.

Ybañez and Buddin won the 1st and 2nd Best Outside Spiker award, respectively, while UST’s Jay Rack de la Noche bagged the Best Opposite Spiker plum.

NU’s Obet Mukaba and La Salle’s Billie Anima went home with the 1st and 2nd Best Middle Blocker award, respectively. Best Setter went to Retamar while Ateneo’s Lance de Castro emerged as Best Libero.