MANILA, Philippines – The FEU Lady Tamaraws quickly erased the memory of a forgettable UAAP Season 84 after starting the Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament with a gutsy four-set win over the UP Fighting Maroons, 25-16, 23-25, 25-17, 26-24, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, February 26.
To honor the return of volleyball legend Tina Salak as the new FEU head coach, the Lady Tamaraws immediately snapped an 11-game losing streak off the leadership of Salak’s setter protege Tin Ubaldo, who tallied 16 excellent sets with 5 points to boot.
Jov Fernandez topscored with 18 points off 17 attacks, while Chen Tagaod and Alyzza Devosora scored 13 and 12, respectively.
After alternating the first three sets, the Maroons looked ready to extend the match to a fifth frame after mounting an early 13-8 lead. However, FEU got its bearings back quickly and stole back momentum with a pivotal 12-4 run, capped by a Gerzel Petallo through-the-block hit for the 20-17 lead.
Petallo kept going in the clutch until an attack error gifted UP a 23-all tie, which Maroons star Alyssa Bertolano next converted to a 24-23 set point off a down-the-line spike.
Unfazed, Devosora took matters into her own hands with back-to-back down-the-line smashes to regain match point, 25-24, which UP’s Steph Bustrillo followed with an unfortunate game-ending attack error that sealed the deal for FEU.
“It’s a good start, definitely a good start for the team, the program, and also the community,” a jubilant Salak said in her first postgame presser as a coach.
“Even if we struggled in training and with their past experiences, we have proven we can overcome them. A good problem we have left is we have to improve more.”
Bertolano paced the UP loss with 14 points, while veteran setter Marianne Sotomil steered the offense with 18 excellent sets.
FEU now prepares next for a huge litmus test on Wednesday, March 1, 12 pm, against the UST Golden Tigresses, as UP also faces a steep challenge in the form of the La Salle Lady Spikers at 4 pm. – Rappler.com
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