If University of the Philippines was looking to make a statement, it couldn’t have logged a bigger one on Saturday night.
The Lady Maroons, showing grit in the third set and veteran steadiness in the fifth, dealt the La Salle Lady Spikers their first defeat, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 20-25,15-12, to gain a share of the lead in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Unshaken by the trademark swag of the three-time defending champions, the Lady Maroons scored their first win over the Lady Spikers since the first round of Season 79 and ended a scintillating undefeated run by La Salle that started in the first round of last season.
More importantly, it officially established UP as one of the teams to watch out for this season, after the Lady Maroons waltzed in with high expectations owing to two preseason titles.
“We felt like we have the breaks to win and we’re just waiting to take it,” said UP setter Ayel Estrañero, who had 38 excellent sets. “It was a tough win because we saw how much La Salle wanted to win.”
UP coach Godfrey Okumu added they won in “the game of courage and aggressiveness,” as the Lady Maroons refused to be cowered by the Lady Spikers, who can be intimidating once they get into a groove.
With Estrañero pulling the strings, UP hitters Isa Molde and Tots Carlos shredded La Salle’s fabled floor coverage. Molde had 20 points on 17 kills while Carlos added 19 kills for the Lady Maroons.
Meanwhile, Far Eastern University pounced on a University of Santo Tomas shaken by the injury of its main gunner to prevail, 19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 27-25.
The Lady Tamaraws turned the tables on the Tigresses after Milena Alessandrini went out of the game in the second set with a suspected tear in her medial collateral ligament.
“This is game is the turning point; had we lost this one, it would affect our morale,” said FEU coach George Pascua in Filipino. “Good thing we won because from this point, it’s all about character.”
Celine Domingo scored 17 points for FEU, which also got inspired performance from Heather Guino-o and Lycha Ebon who turned in 14 and 11 markers respectively.
Eya Laure had 20 points for UST despite hurting her right shoulder, while cramp-stricken Sisi Rondina made 16. Alessandrini had five.
The 6-foot-2 Alessandrini landed badly and injured her left knee with UST up a set and 17-16 in the second.
It was a nasty fall that even Pascua was affected.
“We were saddened by it because Milena is a big help for UST, but these things happen in a game,” added Pascua.
Alessandrini was rushed to the UST hospital to undergo MRI immediately.
Last year, Alessandrini suffered a shoulder injury and was out for most of the first round.
In men’s action, FEU, behind the 23 points of Jude Garcia, outlasted UST, 17-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-19, 15-13, to stretch its unbeaten slate to 4-0.
The Tigers fell to 2-2.
La Salle crushed UP, 25-21, 25-21, 25-18 to finally score its first win in four matches. The Maroons absorbed their fourth defeat in as many matches.
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