La Salle clinched a Final Four slot in UAAP Season 81’s women’s volleyball competitions Saturday—but that wasn’t what the green-clad half of a 16,000-strong crowd came to see.
After all, there was hardly any doubt that the defending champions Lady Spikers would make the semifinals, most probably armed with the twice-to-beat incentive.
So the plot really revolved around one question: Late into a season marked by some missteps, how good is La Salle right now?
Very good, it turns out.
The Lady Spikers humbled fierce rival Ateneo in dominating fashion, never allowing the No. 1 Lady Eagles to get going in a 25-17, 25-13, 25-23 triumph at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I didn’t expect to win this quick, but my players played very well and maybe they wanted it more,” said La Salle mentor Ramil de Jesus in Filipino.
La Salle thus completed a 2-0 elimination round sweep of Ateneo, pushing itself closer to a twice-to-beat incentive in the semifinals. The Lady Spikers’ fourth straight victory also ended the Lady Eagles’ 10-game run.
Perhaps even more chilling was the way La Salle manhandled Ateneo.
The Lady Eagles, the best blocking team in the league whose players—Maddie Madayag, Bea De Leon and Kat Tolentino—occupy the top three spots in the block department, failed to score off kill-blocks all game long.
Moreover, the Ateneo Big Three could only cough up a combined 18 points.
The Lady Spikers let loose their bombers—led by rookie Jolina dela Cruz, who top-scored with 14 points—to dismantle Ateneo’s dreaded defense.
“I tried to play with pride and make a difference for the team,” said the 19-year-old Dela Cruz in Filipino.
“We played well because we really needed this win to pull ahead of the other teams under us,” added De Jesus.
At second place with a 9-3 card, La Salle’s chasers for a twice-to-beat advantage include University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University, who play each other on Sunday.
Ateneo slipped to 10-2, but still leads the hunt for one of two twice-to-beat slots, needing to win at least one of its two remaining matches (against eliminated teams Adamson and University of the East) to clinch the semifinal benefit.
Earlier, University of the East fashioned out a 25-14, 25-19, 25-22, victory over Adamson for its best finish in seven seasons.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.