MANILA, Philippines – And we’re off to a do-or-die Game 4.
With their backs pressed against the wall, the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles managed to live another day as they edged De La Salle University in a thrilling five-setter, 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 17-15, in Game 3 of the 76th UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals, Wednesday, March 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Not even Ara Galang’s 28-point explosion can stop the Katipunan Avenue crew as they set themselves one last Finals date with the Lady Spikers on Saturday, to try to thwart La Salle’s aspirations of a historic four-peat this year.
Newly-minted MVP Alyssa Valdez led the way for Ateneo as she tallied in 22 markers but unlike in their last outing, Amy Ahomiro and Michelle Morente came up with dazzling performances for the Lady Eagles, finishing with 18 apiece to tow their squad to a nail-biting five-set win.
Both sides got off to a rousing start as they practically exchanged points in the opening set, with La Salle putting up two-point leads to keep Ateneo at bay for most of the frame.
But the Lady Eagles then turned a 16-18 deficit into a 25-21 first frame win after Ahomiro and Morente hit crucial hits down the stretch to close out the set on a 4-1 spurt.
La Salle once again sailed ahead at the start of the second set but the Batangas native Valdez engaged the whole Lady Spikers squad to a duel that resulted in at least three deadlocks within the canto.
Gaining the upperhand late in the frame, Ateneo then fired on all cylinders to wrap up the set and clinch a two-set edge, 25-23.
The Green-laden part of the arena, however, went back to life as La Salle rallied on to a scintillating comeback, first taking the third set to stay alive, 25-18.
It was an all-Galang show from then on as the Season 75 MVP buried point after point to lift La Salle to a 25-16 fourth set win, the most lopsided set in a rather tight match.
Snapping out of complacency in the third and fourth sets, Ateneo put up a spirited effort in the fifth as they answered back on every La Salle attack but Galang and DeMecillo showed why they were unbeaten in the eliminations, propelling the Lady Spikers to a 12-8 lead with timely hits and solid composure.
The Lady Eagles, however, proved that they wanted it more as they overcame La Salle’s four point bubble to tie the game at 13-all after a Valdez hit and a Galang error.
Tejada then put Ateneo on top, 14-13 but La Salle skipper Aby Marano retaliated quickly to even the scoring once more at 14-apiece.
After Morente brought Ateneo to matchpoint at 15-14, it was La Salle who handed the Lady Eagles the win themselves after they committed a net interference violation.
Galang did not receive ample support from her teammates this time as Demecillo pitched in just 12 and Mika Reyes contributing 11. After backing Galang in Game 2, Marano was limited to only eight today.
For Ateneo, Denden Lazaro pulled off another good defensive game as she registered 24 excellent digs while Ella de Jesus, who finished with nine markers, added 18 excellent digs of her own.
Both squads will meet for the last time this season on Saturday, March 15 at the same venue. – Rappler.com