A forceful and fabulous finish propelled La Salle back on top.
Making it quick as promised, La Salle downed rival Ateneo in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16, to bag their third straight UAAP women’s volleyball championship yesterday in front of a passionate crowd of over 18,000 at Mall of Asia.
Mika Reyes typified La Salle’s main strength as the sophomore star scored seven off blocks to finish with a team-high 16 points.
“There was no doubt in our minds that we could win this,” said Finals MVP Michelle Gumabao. “At the start of the season, coach (Ramil de Jesus) told us we can win this. So we conditioned our minds and really believed.”
Ara Galang and Abigail Maraño shared the season Most Valuable Player honor, underscoring perhaps the remarkable teamwork that carried the Lady Archers throughout the season.
In another dominant windup, Galang wrapped up the match with a service ace and a block in the third set where the Lady Archers rose from a 9-13 deficit.
Galang dropped 12 points, 10 off kills, and Maraño, also named as the league’s Best Blocker, had 12 markers in Game 2 where the Lady Archers foiled the Lady Eagles’ strong start in every set.
“This is sweet because it is the fruit of all our labor,” said De Jesus.
The volleyball crown capped a strong sports season for La Salle, which captured its first league overall championship after snapping University of Santo Tomas’ 14-year reign.
Earlier, Far Eastern University kept its back-to-back title bid alive after turning back National University, 25-23, 17-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23, in Game 2 of the men’s title round.
The winner-take-all men’s Game 3 is set at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Gumabao pumped in six points and Cyd Demecillo, a revelation in the series, also chipped in six markers.
The Lady Eagles looked capable of forging a fourth set behind Alyssa Valdez, 13-9, before the Lady Archers’ poise again came in full display with a 12-2 surge to pull away at 21-15 in the final frame.
“Everything that we worked hard for really came to this,” said Reyes.
The Lady Archers closed out the season with an impressive 16-game winning streak and will receive as incentive a trip to Hong Kong courtesy of port magnate Mikee Romero, the team’s backer.
La Salle’s Red Christensen and UST’s Mark Gil Alfafara shared the men’s MVP plum. Other winners in the women’s division were Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez (Best Scorer) and Jem Ferrer (Best Setter), NU’s Myla Pablo (Best Attacker), Jennylyn Reyes (Best Digger and Best Receiver) and Aiko Urdas (Rookie of the Year) and Adamson’s Shiela Pineda (Best Server).