Ateneo sweeps eliminations after beating DLSU in thriller

MANILA, Philippines - No team has defeated the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the UAAP Season 77 women’s volleyball tournament.

And for any other squad to win the league championship, they’ll have to take down the defending champions three out of four times in the finals. 

Thanks to a 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 27-25 victory over their rival DLSU Lady Spikers, Alyssa Valdez and company completed a 14-game sweep of the eliminations and earned a straight trip to the final round on Wednesday, February 18, at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

A stepladder format will dictate who they go up against as opposed to the traditional Final Four format due to the sweep. La Salle finished their campaign with a 12-2 record, with both losses coming at the hands of the team that defeated them in last year’s finals.

Valdez, the reigning league MVP and a favorite to repeat, finished with a game-high 29 points - 24 on spikes and 3 on service aces. As a team, Ateneo dominated the spikes battle, 57-38. La Salle, on the other hand, attained most of their points from the Lady Eagles’ 38 errors. 

Rookie Bea De Leon returned from her finger injury to put up 11 points, while her co-rookie teammate Jhoana Maraguinot finished with 10 markers in the game of her life, including the final two that sealed the game in the fourth set. Julia Morada had 23 excellent sets. 

After closing out the first set strong, Ateneo established a four-point lead early in the second period and looked poised to run away with an easy win. 

However, La Salled came up with a furious rally, going on an 14-1 run to make the count 21-15 following a service ace by Mika Reyes, who totalled 8 points in the game. 

Three straight conversions by the Lady Eagles threatened to make the set more competitive, but Ara Galang quickly put an end to their mini-run and helped seal the period. 

Galang led DLSU with 20 points, but received minimal help from Kim Fajardo, who put up only 4. 

The third set went down to the wire as the contest tied at 22 following three consecutive errors by the Lady Eagles. After Cyd Demecillo threw away an error of her own, Maraguinot converted to put her club up 24-22.  

The following play, De Leon committed an error that breathe some life to a potential La Salle comeback. But on the following possession, the service of Reyes sailed past the baseline, leading to the set-sealing point for ADMU, 25-23. 

The fourth set required an extra stretch of rallies after the contest tied at 25 following an Ateneo service error. But in the next two rallies - both of which lasted close to 50 seconds - Maraguinot came up with kills to ice the game and sweep for her club.