The Ateneo Lady Eagles defeated nemesis UST in three sets.
by rick olivares
Down two sets to none, UST Lady Tigresses head coach Ogie Mamon railed at his players. “Lumaban kayo,” he seethed. “Pakita kayo ng UST pride.”
The fiery speech during the two-minute break between sets looked to have fired up UST. Their defense was tighter. Their reception better. Offense-wise, And that translated into an early 6-2 lead as Jessey De Leon and Loren Lantin gave their beleaguered side a lift with some badly needed points.
It was Ateneo head coach Roger Gorayeb’s turn to be concerned. Was it going to be like the first match against FEU where they lost a two-set lead only to win it in the fifth set?
An error by Pamela Lastimosa (touching the net) gave Ateneo a crucial side out. That was followed a second consecutive point for Ateneo as Fille Cainglet smashed one off Maika Ortiz. A Gretchen Ho serve saw Lastimosa commit a receiving error and the Lady Eagles were back in the thick of the fight. Gorayeb, who had been under the weather since Friday, breathed a little easier.
Against UST, he reminded his wards about controlling the match. This was the time to take the lead from their volleyball rivals. After setter Jem Ferrer set up Alyssa Valdez with middle blocker Marge Tejada setting a screen, UST’s wall rose up to block the spike. But Valdez’ drop shot fell behind the defense for the equalizer at 8-8. The Lady Eagles would not fall behind again.
With the score at 14-12, Ateneo, Cainglet smashed a spike down the right line. It was the start of a 7-0 run that blew the match wide open. At the tailend of the run, graduating captain Dzi Gervacio served up two consecutive aces for a 21-12 lead. A few minutes later, a UST error gave Ateneo match point, 25-17, and their third straight win and second consecutive sweep.
While Mamon used 11 of his 14 players, Gorayeb went with only with seven – Gervacio, Cainglet, Ferrer, Valdez, Tejada, Gretchen Ho, and Denden Lazaro. Valdez scored 16 points to the 13 of Gervacio who also had six aces.
Through the years, the one true rival of the Lady Eagles has been the Lady Tigresses and not La Salle. The green and white are more of traditional rivals with broadcasters and media trying to sell a rivalry that really is more apropos to basketball and football.
The seeds of the Ateneo-UST rivalry lie in a game played years ago where the then underachieving Lady Eagles took the first set. The Lady Tigresses, then the defending champions, were irked and one of them went on to make a derogatory statement right before the next set started. Since then the matches have been a little more white hot.
Last season, Ateneo finally defeated UST in a Final Four match up it was as if a burden had been lifted. While La Salle is the defending champion, UST remains a hurdle and the Lady Eagles were not taking any chances.
Save for the early deficit in the third set, Ateneo never let their foes get a grip on the game right from the start. Even when it seemed that the Lady Tigresses would gain a crucial side out and a point, Ateneo kept the ball alive and scored three points off broken plays. By match’s end, they had the three set sweep, 25-13, 25-16, and 25-17, to become the UAAP’s last undefeated women’s volleyball squad.