Riled by talk that it would be easy picking in the finals, Ateneo dumped a surprisingly listless National University, 25-15, 25-22, 25-23, last night to move within a victory of clinching a third straight title in the Shakey’s V-League Season 10 First Conference at Mall of Asia Arena.
Relaxed and confident, the Lady Eagles summoned all their championship experience, pouncing on a lethargic start by the Lady Bulldogs to complete the victory in an hour and 14 minutes.
The Lady Bulldogs looked like greenhorns in the biggest game of their careers —tentative on the attack and struggling with their reception which led to free balls that the Lady Eagles capitalized to the hilt.
Guest players Rachel Anne Daquis and Jeng Bualee each tallied 14 points, even as a hurting Alyssa Valdez and seldom-used Amy Ahomiro combined for 12 for the Lady Eagles, whose lone loss in the tournament came against NU in straight sets in the elimination round.
“We got challenged by the talk we overheard that they will beat us in straight sets,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb, whose squad can wrap up the title on Sunday. “This is the match that matters.”
Fresh from claiming her first Most Valuable Player award, Dindin Santiago got neutralized by the Ateneo defense, finishing with just five points. The 19-year-old Santiago, the league’s youngest MVP who was also named best scorer, was held scoreless in the first two sets.
Gorayeb pulled out a trump card in Amohiro, a New Zealand native, who provided some scoring punch each time Valdez, nursing an injured shoulder, went out of the game.
“I cannot just apply the same gameplan all the time,” said Gorayeb. “Alyssa was injured, that’s why I had to use some of my reserves.”
The Lady Eagles opened the game with an 8-2 lead and never looked back in taking the first set. No player finished in double figures for the Lady Bulldogs for the first time in the tournament.
“We just committed so many errors,” said NU coach Edjet Mabbayad. “But we will learn from the loss.”
Earlier, Adamson came from behind to outlast University of Santo Tomas, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 15-12, to also take a 1-0 lead in their series for third place.
Angela Benting and Shiela Marie Pineda notched 23 points each, while Pau Soriano chipped in 18 for the Lady Falcons, who won in just over two hours.
The other individual awardees were NU’s Myla Pablo (best attacker), Rubie de Leon (best setter) and Jennylyn Reyes (best digger), Valdez (best server), Bualee (best receiver) and UST’s Maika Ortiz (best blocker) and Pamela Lastimosa (Most Improved Player).