Dominant NU sweeps La Salle, wins inaugural Super League title
MANILA, Philippines — National University extended its dominance in the inaugural Shakey’s Super League Collegiate Preseason Conference as it swept La Salle, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20, in the winner-take-all final on Saturday before a jampacked crowd at Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
The Lady Bulldogs asserted their mastery of the Lady Spikers to complete an eight-game tournament sweep and rise to the top of the preseason league, where all eight UAAP teams and 10 NCAA squads participated.
Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, and Ces Robles led the balanced attack of NU to overcome La Salle’s tough challenge in each set and complete another unscathed title run, following a historic 16-0 season in the UAAP women’s volleyball finals five months ago, where they also swept the Lady Spikers in the best-of-three series.
Solomon delivered 14 points built on 10 spikes, three aces, and a block. She drilled two consecutive kills in the third set to seal NU’s championship after one hour and 37 minutes. Belen and Robles had 10 and nine points, respectively, with setter Lams Lamina providing the brilliant plays and libero Jennifer Nierva protecting the floor.
“It was worth it for the players because their hard work has paid off,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan in Fiipino. “But even we won another championship, this won’t stop us from improving our game and seeking to be more consistent. We always find a way to improve every tournament and every game.”
“La Salle and other UAAP teams have improved as we played them this preseason. I just reminded my players to play our game and control the tempo,” he added.
The Lady Bulldogs pounced on the undermanned Lady Spikers as the latter missed the services of libero Justine Jazareno, senior spiker Jolina Dela Cruz, and Matet Espina, who sat out in the game coming from the opening day of the UAAP Season 85 women’s beach volleyball tournament.
Dimaculangan won his second championship as the school’s head coach after steering his wards to a historic Season 84 championship, which ended a 65-year title drought. It was the Lady Bulldogs’ first preseason crown since Jaja Santiago completed their ‘three-peat’ in the 2018 Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference.
The Lady Bulldogs’ second unit, led by rookie Vangie Alinsug and back-up setter Joyme Cagande, also proved they have what it takes to lead the team, shining in SSL’s all-to-play rule and unleashing a 16-5 start in the second set that forced the Lady Spikers coach Noel Orcullo to field his starters.
La Salle recovered from a 22-16 deficit in the second set, scoring three straight points to trim it down to three, 22-19, from Angel Canino’s ace and Aleiah Malaluan’s attack. However, the Lady Spikers gave up three unforced errors that handed the two-set lead to the Lady Bulldogs.
NU erased La Salle’s 17-15 lead in the third set as it scored five straight unanswered points to turn the tables, 20-17, keeping its opponent at bay before Solomon drilled the championship-clinching kill off a broken play.
Canino, who showed a lot of promise in her first tournament as a Lady Spiker, led her team with 14 points as they settled for silver. Thea Gagate had eight points, while Malaluan and Leila Cruz had seven markers each.