La Salle secures playoff for Final Four slot after escaping NU
MANILA, Philippines — A more experienced De La Salle Lady Spikers knew exactly when and how to deliver a mean finishing kick, allowing them to survive the NU Lady Bulldogs in 4 sets, 25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25, in the UAAP Season 77 women's volleyball tournament on Saturday, January 31 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
La Salle pounded NU and built a 2-0 set advantage but grew complacent in the third, as the Lady Bulldogs stayed alive for a fourth. But coach Ramil De Jesus' battle-tested crew came through in the end to seal the win.
"That's the problem with this team because of what they went through in the first half. They're relaxed and over-confident," De Jesus said in Filipino.
With a 9-1 record, the Lady Spikers assured themselves of at least a playoff for a Final Four seat. Their lone defeat so far came at the hands of rivals Ateneo, which already secured a spot and twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals.
Mika Reyes tallied 15 points including 3 blocks and two aces for La Salle, which won its third straight outing after their only loss.
The Lady Spikers, which suffered from 31 errors, also got 14 points from Ara Galang, and 8 points each from Carol Ann Cerveza and Mary Joy Baron.
After dominating the Lady Bulldogs in straight sets during their first round encounter, the Lady Spikers faced a much-improved foe under its new coach Roger Gorayeb.
NU stayed within striking distance every set and eventually fought back harder and played with much vigor and higher intensity in the third to extend the match to a fourth frame.
"I kept giving them instructions but I don't know why their minds seemed to be blank," said De Jesus.
But La Salle was equally gritty as they climbed back from a 19-23 deficit in the fourth, scoring off the block and overcoming their own errors.
Searching for a spark, De Jesus inserted Justine Tiu into the match at the crucial juncture and the 4th year outside hitter brought La Salle to within 23-24 on an attack through the blockers.
"I kept telling them throughout the game that our attacks weren't good, so I had to change personnel," De Jesus explained why he chose to field in Tiu.
"Her attitude in practice is she will always hit the ball hard, which was what Cyd (Demecillo) could not do, and I knew what Justine could do. So it's about time the kid be given a break."
"Although she doesn't have high-percentage attacks and she had unforced errors, she really stepped for us," De Jesus added.
Galang then took over as NU shot itself in the foot with unforced errors, which was capped by a Jaja Santiago hit that went wide.
The 6-foot-4 Santiago, who struggled with an average of 12 points in their previous two games, carried NU on her shoulders this time around with a game-high 25 points built on 20 attacks and 5 blocks.
Myla Pablo delivered 13 points, while Rizza Mandapat chipped in 8.
NU, which fell to 4-6, remained winless in the second round of eliminations after closing out the first round with back to back wins. - Rappler.com