Hear them roar: Tigresses keep their faith, stop Lady Bulldogs’ 20-game win streak
Eya Laure hit the floor and let out a celebratory scream after the University of Santo Tomas (UST) star delivered the game-clinching block on National U standout Alyssa Solomon.
The Tigresses had done what no team has done over these last two seasons: Beat the Lady Bulldogs.
UST scratched and clawed for two hours and 43 minutes before sending defending champion National University (NU) to its knees, 25-23, 27-25, 17-25, 22-25, 15-11, on Saturday night in front of a sea crowd of yellow and blue at Mall of Asia Arena.
And Laure credited the victory to a heavy dose of faith.
“They have a great record. It’s a perfect run for them (last season). But we believe that we can beat them and we showed it in this game that we can,’’ Laure said after the Tigresses ended the victory streak of NU at 20 games dating back to 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the tournament.
The win put UST in a tie for second with NU and Adamson, which pulled off a 25-21, 24-26, 25-14, 25-21 victory over Far Eastern University in the first game. The three schools are tied with a 2-1 (win-loss) slate, behind La Salle’s pacesetting 2-0 card.
“Competing against them is really difficult. You will be forced to work for every point. Luckily, we overcame these adversities and got the fifth set,’’ said UST coach Kungfu Reyes. “We were lucky that NU had a bad game. But even if they had a bad game, it was difficult to beat them.”
Laure led UST with 18 points, highlighted by 14 attacks, plus 14 excellent digs and four blocks, going up against the same standouts she had been battling since their high school days.
“[Y]ou can see how the rivalry developed. It’s an exciting matchup whenever we play them,’’ Laure said.
Rookie Regina Jurado scored 18 points with two blocks and a pair of aces to help the UST attack
“We played our hearts out,” Jurado said. “We [had fun during] the game and that was the most important so that we could shake off the pressure and fear [of playing against NU],” Jurado said.
Filipino-Italian Milena Alessandrini came back from a sprain in the fourth set and finished with 14 points while Cassie Carballo ran the offense fluidly with 24 excellent sets.
“I was very scared when I went down. I thought in my mind [it was] something serious again,” said Alessandrini, who is playing her first season since a knee injury in 2019. “How can I survive again to face another injury? Then I prayed and the coaches helped me to recover to treat my ankle.”
“I really wanted to give my contribution to the team and so I played with a very big heart,” Alessandrini said.
Solomon led NU with 22 points on 20 attacks while Michaela Belen added 17 points.
UST scored four straight points in the fifth set to build a 10-6 cushion before Alessandrini and Laure joined hands in finally ending NU’s run.
“We expect this season to be different. We’ll go back to the drawing board after this defeat,’’ said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan, whose Lady Bulldogs swept last season’s tournament on the way to the crown.
In the first game, Kate Santiago helped propel the Lady Falcons past the Lady Tamaraws with 18 points while Lorence Toring added 14 points, three blocks.
“We are not content with the performance that we showed. We need to get better, especially our consistency and the team’s composure,’’ said Toring.
It was Adamson that revealed NU’s vulnerabilities this season when it forced five sets on the reigning champions before yielding, 25-22, 25-19, 25-27, 22-25, 15-10. That helped build UST’s belief that it could carve out a win despite blowing a two-set lead.
“I felt [the Lady Bulldogs] were beatable because this season, it’s not the first time that they were forced to play in five sets,” Jurado said, referring to the NU-Adamson match last Wednesday.