La Salle, UST trip foes ahead of huge UAAP clash
La Salle wriggled out of an extra tight confrontation on Wednesday at the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball.
But the tournament leaders cannot afford to duplicate such an act with another big game coming up.
“We shouldn’t play this way again once we face UST (University of Santo Tomas),’’ said La Salle assistant coach Noel Orcullo after the Lady Spikers walked the tightrope before scoring a 30-28, 25-12, 28-26, win over the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws.
The Lady Spikers narrowly survived the opening and third sets prior to solidifying their grip of the lead with a ninth straight victory that rewarded La Salle of at least a playoff for the semifinals.
They will meet the Tigresses anew on Sunday, bringing back stark memories of their grueling five-set victory in the first round.
“We should come out aggressive right from the beginning and strengthen our defense. Triple effort in practice, especially during the game,’’ said Orcullo, who pinch-hit for La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus during the postgame interview.
UST certainly gave La Salle enough reasons to worry.
Aside from dragging the Lady Spikers to a fifth set during their showdown in the first round, the Tigresses also flaunted their bounce-back power after whipping University of the East (UE) in the other game, 25-17, 25-16, 25-17.
Like La Salle, UST believes it has a lot to work on heading into the Sunday showdown between the two schools.
“We committed lapses that we have to work on and be ready in our succeeding games,’’ said Eya Laure, who pummeled the UE defense at every opportunity and had 15 attacks out of her game-high 17 points to lead the Tigresses in a badly needed win following a recent defeat at the hands of the Adamson Lady Falcons.
“We started with a loss in the first round as well as in the second round. Good thing we were able to bounce back on both occasions. It’s difficult to lose two games in a row,’’ said UST coach Kungfu Reyes.
“We still have many things to fix as the level of competition intensifies. The team that commits more unforced errors will be on the losing end,’’ added Reyes.
Angel Canino had another superb outing for La Salle with 16 attacks and pitched in her share protecting the floor with 15 receptions and 14 excellent digs. Thea Gagate had 11 points, including 10 kills, and Jolina dela Cruz added 10 points and 14 digs while Fifi Sharma contributed four blocks for the Lady Spikers, who likewise squeezed the best from Baby Jyne Soreno in the final set.
“We’re 9-0, but we shouldn’t stop here. We must not come out flat again like we did in our succeeding games,’’ said Canino, a front-runner vying for the tournament’s rookie-Most Valuable Player accolade.
The Lady Tamaraws put the Lady Spikers on the ropes early and nearly snatched the opening set.
Sigh of relief
Cherie Tagaod and Alyzza Devosora pushed FEU in front, 19-15, before the Lady Spikers leveled the count on Mars Alba’s twin aces that sandwiched a Dela Cruz crosscourt push.
Canino then rose to the occasion by driving the double kill into the Lady Tamaraws’ backyard, giving her team a sigh of relief.
“Going toe-to-toe against one of the strongest teams is an impressive thing. You can see a bright future for this team,’’ said FEU coach Tina Salak, who was delighted with the Lady Tamaraws’ showing despite sliding to 4-5 (win-loss), good for fifth place.
The Lady Tamaraws also threatened at the beginning of the second set by keeping in step with the Lady Spikers, but it was short-lived as Gagate and Dela Cruz controlled the net while FEU scrambled on the other side.
Tied at 9, La Salle regained its usual deadly form, unloading an assortment of attacks that fueled a sizzling 16-3 finishing kick.
The Lady Spikers got another scare in the final set when the Lady Tamaraws again pushed them to the limit.
After Devosora’s kill forced the last deadlock at 26, Dela Cruz retaliated with a back-row attack and Gagate deflected FEU’s last-ditch effort.
“Another game like this against UST will be disastrous for us. We had gone through five sets against them and we cannot afford that,’’ said Orcullo.
UST has won six out of nine games so far in the tournament.
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