Leiah Malaluan (No. 6) provided the scoring sock for La Salle. —PHOTOS BY UAAP MEDIA
La Salle will always get a kick out of beating Ateneo, regardless of sport. But on Tuesday night, the Lady Spikers’ victory over the defending champions had a little bit more sauce.
In winning the latest episode of a fabled rivalry, a rebuilding La Salle team took the No. 2 spot in the playoffs and, along with it, crucial twice-to-beat protection.
The Lady Spikers forged a superb 19-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory over the Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena, getting contributions from several key players.
In a tight fifth set, La Salle showed an icy composure that Ateneo couldn’t break to register its 10th win in 13 outings.
“We just tried to help one another prove to each other that we can beat Ateneo that’s why we played that way,” said Baby Jyne Soreño, who had 17 points along with top gun Leiah Malaluan to lead La Salle.
“It’s teamwork,” added Jolina dela Cruz, who finished with 14 points. “It’s not a result of just one player doing everything. Every one of us proved that we can produce points.”
UST No. 3
That teamwork quote may have been prompted by the 29-point performance of Ateneo star Faith Nisperos, whose flubbed attack in the fifth set allowed La Salle to take a precious 12-10 lead.
From there, the Lady Spikers hung tough and never allowed the Blue Eagles to threaten.
“Our message to them (players) is that they have to want it; if they want it enough they will get it,” said La Salle assistant coach Benson Bocboc in Filipino.
With the victory, La Salle also scrubbed off a semifinal showdown with its fierce rival.
University of Santo Tomas (UST), which drubbed winless University of the East, 26-24, 25-18, 25-19, took the No. 3 spot and will face the Lady Spikers in the Final Four, needing to win twice to make it to the championship joust.
The Tigresses had to deal with the feisty Lady Warriors who were even at set point in the opening frame before UST whipped itself to shape to ensure its ninth win in 13 matches.
UST was actually the only team left with the chance of tying La Salle at No. 2, but even then, the Tigresses would have lost out via the quotient.
Ateneo is precariously at No. 4 with a 7-6 record, still within reach of the Adamson Lady Falcons, who were playing at press time.
Not that the No. 4 spot is worth anything at this point. While clinching the last semifinal berth extends Ateneo’s already tenuous hold of the title, it will also put the Blue Eagles in the path of rampaging leader National University (NU).
The Lady Bulldogs notched a 13th straight victory after turning back Far Eastern U, 24-26, 25-17, 25-19, 25-10, to move a step closer toward clinching an outright championship slot and pushing the bottom-ranked semifinalists into a grueling stepladder journey to the finals.
Mhicaela Belen led NU with 18 points while Jen Nierva anchored the defense with 18 digs and 12 excellent receptions as the Lady Bulldogs rebounded from an early setback to inch closer to a sweep of the preliminary round.
“What I observed was everyone was so tight and that wasn’t our energy,” said Nierva. “What I did was I started showing more energy and showed that I was enjoying the game and everyone did the same.” INQ