LA SALLE withstood defending champion National University's third set fightback to pull off a 25-10, 25-15, 25-21 win and complete a first-round sweep of the UAAP women's volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena Wednesday.

22 March 2023

LA SALLE withstood defending champion National University’s third set fightback to pull off a 25-10, 25-15, 25-21 win and complete a first-round sweep of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena Wednesday.

The crucial win came as a sweet revenge of sorts for the Lady Spikers, who lost all of their previous encounters with the Lady Bulldogs last season, all in straight sets.

But this time, La Sall worked like a well-oiled machine and everything fell into place from offense to defense.

However, La Salle cannot afford yet to rest on its laurels as it braces for tougher battles ahead not only against NU but for the rest of the field in the second round starting on Saturday with a heavy four-match bill at the Philsports Arena.

“We have still to focus on our singular goal which is to get the championship this season,” said Fifi Sharma, the Lady Spikers’ second-best leading scorer with 12 points. “So huwag masyadong i-sensationalize yung mga wins like this because there are many other games that we have to go through in order to get to what we need to achieve.

“One game at a time. Everybody knows. All my teammates know that. So, I’m confident about how we gonna handle the pressure. I don’t even feel like other people feel the pressure that all. We are confident, yeah,” the daughter of former La Salle and PBA center Carlo added.

Rookie Angel Canino logged 14 points and eight receptions, while Jolina dela Cruz chipped in 11 points and 10 digs for the Lady Spikers. Setter Mars Alba tossed in 20 excellent sets while libero Justine Jazareno collected 15 digs and six receptions.

La Salle’s 7-0 first-round sweep was the first since the 2013-14 season, where it went perfect 14 elimination round matches, only to lose to Ateneo despite holding a tremendous thrice-to-beat advantage in the Finals.

A well-scouted Lady Spikers outhit the Lady Bulldogs, 39-30, and dominated the blocks (12-4) and service (4-1) departments.

Three-peat-seeking NU also fashioned out a perfect 7-0 campaign in the men’s first round with a 25-21, 25-21, 25-16 tripping of La Salle.

The Bulldogs, who drew a combined 25 points from rookie Buds Buddin and Kenry Malinis, have now won 25 consecutive matches dating back from 29, while the Green Spikers settled for a 4-3 mark.

Earlier, Adamson rebounded from its straight-set loss to La Salle with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-23 victory over the University of the Philippines to end its first-round campaign with a 5-2 record in a tie with NU and University of Santo Tomas.

Reigning MVP Mhicaela Belen came through with 12 points, nine receptions, and seven digs, while Alyssa Solomon had eight points for the Lady Bulldogs.

“Hindi ko inaasahan na mai-straight sets namin sila. Sabi ko nga sa mga bata before pumasok yung first six, stick to the plan kung ano yung inaral natin, doon tayo huwag tayong umalis doon. At least nag-click and they played with pride,” said Lady Spikers interim coach Noel Orcullo.

“Hindi pwedeng magpapaintimidate tayo dahil nung last year hindi tayo nakakuha ng set. Sabi ko different team na tayo ngayon hindi na kagaya nung Season 84,” he added.

Kate Santiago had 16 points, including three blocks, while setter Louie Romero tossed in 25 excellent sets as the Lady Falcons are on their finest start since opening the 2011-12 season by winning five of their first seven matches.

“We did our job. Kumbaga, yung mga dapat na makuhang games, nakuha namin. I think okay naman yung placing namin,” said Adamson coach Jerry Yee after the impressive first round which includes a stunning straight-set romp of University of Santo Tomas.

The Fighting Maroons, who have lost four in a row and dropped to 1-6 overall, kept the third set close until Santiago produced the clincher that closed out the one-hour, 11-minute match.

In a duel of winless men’s teams, Adamson finally gave its new coach George Pascua a breakthrough with a 25-16, 25-19, 25-22, conquest of UP.

“Dalawang bagay lang ang sinabi ko sa kanila: Maniwala’t magtiwala. Maniwala sa sistema at magtiwala sa sarili,” said Pascua after the Falcons ended a six-match winning streak.

Evander Navillo scored 11 points, including back-to-back service aces that completed Adamson’s fightback from a 17-20 deficit late in the third set. He also had two blocks.

The Fighting Maroons, who were led by Gelo Lagando’s nine points, fell to 0-7.