ATENEO turned back University of Santo Tomas in four sets, 25-13, 23-25, 25-23, 25-13, last night and reached the First Conference finals for the third straight year in the Shakey’s V-League at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Alyssa Valdez, Jeng Bualee and Fille Cainglet picked up the slack for the struggling Rachel Anne Daquis as the Lady Eagles completed a sweep of the best-of-three semifinal series and stayed in the hunt for a third consecutive crown.
The Lady Eagles await the winner of the Adamson-National U semifinal series, which will go down to a do-or-die clash after the Lady Bulldogs rallied for a marathon 20-25, 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 15-12 triumph in Game 2 earlier.
The deciding match is set Sunday at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Dragged into another five-setter, the Lady Bulldogs kept their composure this time with Rubie de Leon steadying the youthful squad with her excellent setting and Dindin and Jaja Santiago proving relentless on the attack.
Jaja Santiago, the talented 17-year-old, tallied only 11 points, but the 6-foot-4 attacker delivered the kill that ended the match in two hours and nine minutes, after older sister, Dindin, boosted the Lady Bulldogs to an 11-5 lead early in the deciding set.
Dindin Santiago scored 27 points with Carmina Aganon contributing 19.
“This is a young team and it showed in the third set (loss). But when they’re loose, they play better,” said NU coach Edjet Mabbayad.
Bualee, the Thai reinforcement who only joined Ateneo in the semifinals after the team she joined at the start of the conference, San Sebastian, was eliminated, wound up with 22 points, 19 off kills, while Valdez also sparkled with 13.
Cainglet had 10 hits, most of them coming in the pivotal third set.
“UST did not have time to recover from that loss (in Game 1) and we were able to capitalize,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb.