NU’s Bella Belen instrumental in the Lady Bulldogs’ latest win. UAAP PHOTO
Taking the top spot was a matter of formality for National University (NU). But Michaela “Bella” Belen sprinkled a little history on the Lady Bulldogs’ victory in the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball to make it a wee bit special.
Belen tied a league record with eight service aces as NU clinched the No. 1 spot with a 25-15, 25-10, 25-15 rout of University of the Philippines (UP) on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Apparently, the feat was unplanned for the rookie out of NU’s Nazareth School. In fact, she came with a mindset that was quite the opposite.
“I kept telling myself that I don’t need an ace every time I serve,” said the former high school Most Valuable Player. “I just want to be on target. I’ve been told before that I don’t need to put too much power on my serve because I have a tendency to commit errors.”
“I’m happy because I made up for my service mistakes last game,” Belen added, after matching the UAAP record of former Ateneo star Dzi Gervacio, who also had eight aces in a win against UP in 2013.
Belen already tied the record early in the second set after nailing back-to-back aces for a 9-2 spread as NU finished with a total of 13 aces en route to a lopsided win after an hour and 26 minutes.
She wound up with 16 points, eight on attacks, as NU to accomplished its first No.1 seed finish in the Final Four era with its 12th victory in as many games.
Two more victories will put the Lady Bulldogs, who have been the pack leaders since opening day, in the finals outright.
Sheena Toring chipped in 11 points off eight attacks, two aces and a block. Ivy Lacsina and Alyssa Solomon added eight points each, while skipper Cess Robles added seven.
In another show of depth, NU also drew solid performances from setter Lams Lamina, who dished out 17 excellent sets, and libero Jennifer Nierva, who protected the floor with 18 digs and nine receptions.
“What’s important at this point, with the elimination [round] about to end is we gain confidence for the Final Four or for whatever happens next,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan, whose wards dropped UP to sixth place and in danger of missing the semifinals at 5-6 (win-loss).
Meanwhile, Eya Laure and Ypril Tapia fueled University of Santo Tomas’ (UST) 25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 25-12 victory over Far Eastern University, halting a two-game tailspin by the Tigresses.
UST (8-4) is making a last-gasp attempt at cornering the No. 2 spot, which would be a vital position in the Final Four should NU book an outright Finals berth. Even if NU somehow misses out on a perfect record, the No. 2 team will still gain a vital edge in the playoffs because of twice-to-beat protection.
La Salle, which defeated University of the East, 25-12, 25-19, 25-22, later on Friday, is plugged at second place with a 9-3 record.
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