La Salle blanks Ateneo, notches 12th straight win
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) --- De La Salle University flexed its muscles early and often, controlling from virtually start to finish in a straight-sets drubbing of archrival Ateneo de Manila University in the 75th UAAP women's volleyball tournament before a humongous crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Spikers' rock-solid defense proved to be the key to an impressive 25-19, 25-23, 25-21 win that sealed the two-time defending champions' elimination round finish as the top seed.
Almost 20, 000 people --- including volleyball pioneers, celebrities and former players --- trooped to the MOA Arena in what turned out as the most-watched volleyball match in Philippine history.
And with all eyes on them, La Salle did not disappoint.
The Lady Spikers raced to an 8-3 advantage in the first set and never let go of that lead, leaning on lethal attacks by reigning MVP Abi Marano and blocks by Michele Gumabao to take it, 25-19.
The Lady Eagles bounced back in the second set and even erected an 11-7 lead, but La Salle came charging back behind Ara Galang to take the driver's seat, 24-21.
However, Galang almost turned from hero to goat as back-to-back errors by the sophomore allowed Ateneo to close the gap, 24-23, before a block on Dzi Gervacio helped the Lady Spikers go up, 2-0.
La Salle started quick in the third, building an 8-4 bubble as the Lady Eagles began to implode.
But the Katipunan-based squad refused to roll over and die and with reserve Ella de Jesus providing spark off the bench, Ateneo fought back, 15-14.
The Lady Spikers embarked on a 5-1 run to make it 20-15, but the Lady Eagles responded with a 5-0 blast of their own to tie it at 20-all.
Cyd Demecillo pushed La Salle to a 23-21 advantage before back-to-back errors by Gervacio and Gretchen Ho doomed Ateneo's fate.
Michele Gumabao paced the Lady Spikers with 14 points off nine hits, three blocks and two aces while Mika Reyes had six blocks, three kills and an ace.
La Salle had a whopping 18 blocks in just three sets and limited the Lady Eagles to an atrocious 19.8% attack conversion while making 24.7% of their own.
UAAP leading scorer Alyssa Valdez was held to 10 points, the same output of Gervacio.