Ateneo outlasts FEU to secure Final Four slot

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Ateneo de- Manila Uni-versity survived Far Eastern University (FEU), 25-20, 25-22, 17-25, 21-25, 15-8, to claim the first Final Four slot in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.

Jho Maraguinot powered the Lady Eagles in taking a 10-5 advantage in the deciding frame and the Lady Tamaraws crumbled with their late-game errors in another epic five-setter duel.

The Lady Eagles have not lost to the Lady Tamaraws since dropping a 20-25, 17-25, 16-25 decision last January 23, 2013.

Maraguinot came through with 23 points, including three service aces, Michelle Morente had 15 hits, 18 digs and 17 excellent receptions while Jia Morado tossed in 39 excellent sets on top of six points for Ateneo.

Ateneo de Manila University’s Jia Morado tips the ball during the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball tournament elimination round at The Arena in San Juan City. DANTE DENNIS DIOSINA JR.

The loss, the fifth in 10 contests, put a dampener to the Lady Tamaraws’ Final Four campaign.

FEU is now trailing joint fourth placers University of the Philippines and National University (5-4) by half-a-game.

Bernadeth Pons had four blocks to finish with 19 points and had 12 excellent receptions while Chin-Chin Basas added 14 hits and nine digs for the Lady Tamaraws.

Earlier, University of Santo Tomas (UST) stopped Adamson University, 25-12, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19, to grab the solo third.

The Lady Falcons, grabbed the third set but the Tigresses regrouped in the fourth behind Cherry Rondina to clinch their sixth win in 10 matches in solo third.

“They (Adamson) are very aggressive on defense. They keep on trying, including in offense,” said UST mentor Kungfu Reyes.

Rondina paced the Tigresses with 18 hits, EJ Laure had 14 points and 25 digs while Pam Lastimosa and Ria Meneses each had 11 markers.

UST surpassed its five-win output last year. Now two games above the .500 mark, the Tigresses have not tasted a winning record since going 8-6 in the 2012-13 season.

Jema Galanza came through with 16 points, 23 excellent receptions and 11 excellent digs, while Joy Dacoron added 11 points, including three blocks, for the Lady Falcons.

Adamson University stumbled to 0-10.

In the men’s division, reigning MVP Marck Espejo sizzled with a personal season-best 27 points and 10 digs as titleholder Ateneo withstood a second set loss to turne back UST, 25-22, 23-25, 25-13, 25-21, and extend its winning run to 24 games which dates back from last season.

UP, behind Alfred Valbuena’s 19 points, defeated UE, 25-22, 25-23, 25-18, to even its record at 5-5 and open a one-game lead over UST (4-6) in the race for the last semifinals berth.

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