MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Tested all series long, Ateneo proved why it’s this season’s top seed.
The Lady Eagles Eagles overcame a gritty challenge by the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, to book a return trip to the finals in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
Ateneo – which missed last year’s finale – leaned on usual reliables Kat Tolentino, Bea de Leon and Maddie Madayag to fend off an FEU side that kept clawing back in the do-or-die Final Four on Wednesday, May 8, at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The victory propelled Ateneo to a best-of-three Finals series against University of Santo Tomas, the No. 2 seed which dethroned La Salle last Sunday to clinch the first title slot.
Game 1 of the best-of-three title series is set on Saturday, May 11, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Kat Tolentino led Ateneo with 19 points off 17 attacks while Maddie Madayag and Ponggay Gaston added 12 markers apiece.
“It’s about believing in the team and believing in each other,” said Tolentino.
Jer Malabanan and Heather Guino-o closed out their UAAP careers with 18 and 12 points, respectively.
FEU had forced a winner-take-all after stunning Ateneo in a five-set thriller in the Final Four opener last Saturday.
After 3 tightly-contested sets that saw Ateneo take a 2-1 lead, the FEU defense fell apart at the start of the 4th as Tolentino led a 9-1 Ateneo run.
Ponggay Gaston kept FEU’s comeback attempts at bay after two straight points off a spike and a block, 13-4.
But graduating hitter Jer Malabanan gave the Lady Tamaraws a glimmer of hope after inching within 5, 10-15, off a booming kill for the 6-2 run.
However, Tolentino all but shattered their hopes after a brutal smash for the 10-point lead, 21-11.
The contest was much more competitive in the earlier sets as both squads traded scoring runs. FEU came close to snatching away the crucial 3rd set but Gaston stopped their comeback at 25-23.
With the loss, FEU stars Heather Guino-o, Malabanan and Kyle Negrito bowed out of the UAAP without a championship. – Rappler.com