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MANILA, Philippines – Reigning UAAP La Salle flaunted its championship pedigree, holding off University of Santo Tomas with a 22-25, 25-18, 14-25, 26-24, 26-24 comeback win over University of Santo Tomas to advance in the 2023 Shakey’ Super League (SSL) National Invitationals finals Friday, August 4, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
The Lady Spikers saved match points one after another in the fourth and fifth sets to complete the epic come-from-behind win and arrange a best-of-three finale against Adamson, which drubbed the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta in straight sets in the other semis pairing.
Game 1 of the title series kicks off at 4 pm on Wednesday, August 9, also in San Juan.
La Salle erased a 21-24 deficit in the fourth set behind a 5-0 closeout to force a deciding set, where it saved seven more match points for a thrilling victory in two hours and 23 minutes.
A crosscourt kill by Alleiah Malaluan after a single block from Thea Gagate ended it for La Salle in the nip-and-tuck clincher that stretched all the way to a regular set from a supposedly race-to-15 duel.
Malaluan, returning from a minor knee injury that forced her to play limited action in UAAP Season 85, rediscovered her fine form with 25 points on 20 hits and 5 aces to banner La Salle’s slim win.
Shevana Laput joined the barrage with 23 points as Gagate added 14 points for La Salle, which sports a golden chance to become the first SSL national champion as well after lording it over in the UAAP with a near-perfect run in 16 matches.
Coincidentally, La Salle absorbed its lone UAAP loss against UST that set the stage for another all-out war in the SSL.
“Tulad ng sabi ko, ibang labanan na dito sa semis. Sabi ko lang sa kanila na kailangan ilabas ‘yung A-game nila,” said La Salle deputy mentor Noel Orcullo.
(Like what I said, the semis would be a different battle. I just told them that we needed to bring our A-game.)
“Mukhang na-pressure kasi masyadong excited na ilabas ‘yung A-game. Mostly errors, lalo na sa service. Pinaalala lang namin sa kanila na ipakita nyo kung sino kayo.”
(It looks like the players got pressured, they got too excited to show their A-game. Mostly errors, espeially at the service line. We just reminded them to show who they really are.)
The Lady Spikers did.
As setter Cassie Carballo scooped in a surprise hit to push UST to match point at 24-21 in the fourth set, La Salle hammered 5 straight points capped by Malaluan’s attack anew to extend the duel.
UST, behind Angeline Poyos and Regina Jurado, nearly returned the favor on UST by erasing a 2-6 deficit and forcing a deuce at 14-all that snowballed to a fire with fire battle the rest of the way.
The Golden Tigresses, despite all the meltdowns, came close to punching a finale ticket on multiple occasions with the latest at 24-23 off a Poyos hit only to surrender the next three points for a stinging defeat.
Poyos exploded for 29 points while Jurado had 25 in a foiled cause for UST, which will try to claim the next possible prize with a bronze medal match, also in best-of-three format, against Perpetual.
Earlier, the Lady Falcons needed only 76 minutes for a 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 win to halt the Lady Altas on a high momentum after eliminating two-time NCAA champion College of St. Benilde in the quarterfinals.
Four Adamson players racked up twin digits led by Ayesha Juegos with 29 points.
Maria Rochelle Lalongisip banged in 21 points while Lucille Almonte and Lorene Toring added 15 and 10 points, respectively, for yet another sweep of Adamson.
“Kailangang paghandaan namin ‘yung finals (We need to prepare for the semifinals),” said first-year coach JP Yude as Adamson, albeit with a young squad, reached another milestone after a UAAP bronze medal finish.
Adamson, next to La Salle, is the only other team to not yield a single set in the SSL featuring champions and qualifiers from NCR, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The Lady Falcons notched the first set but were pushed to the brink of absorbing a dent in the second with a 17-21 deficit only for Juegos, Toring and Almonte to stage a searing 8-0 closeout.
Smelling blood, Adamson sprinted to a 6-0 start in the third and never looked back to clinch the win that served as a fitting revenge after losing to Perpetual in a friendly match in five sets prior to the SSL.
“Ang mindset namin ay kailangan ma-shutdown ‘yung mga hitters nila. Alam namin na mataas kumpyansa nila (after that win versus CSB). Kahit paano, nakabawi kami,” added Yude.
(Our mindset was to shut down their hitters. We know they came in with high morale. At least we got back at them.)
Shaila Omipon, Razel Paula Aldea and Charmaine Ocado had 17, 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Perpetual as NCAA MVP Mary Rhose Dapol settled for only 9 points after exploding for 33 in the historic win against St. Benilde. – Rappler.com