Saint Benilde checked its skid in time, outpointing Southwestern University in the deciding set to hack out a 25-23, 25-23, 15-25, 23-25, 15-9 victory and seize solo second in Group A of the Shakey’s V-League Season 11 First Conference at The Arena in San Juan yesterday.
The Lady Blazers, who finished third in the last NCAA volley wars behind champions the Perpetual’s Lady Altas and runners-up the Arellano U’s Lady Chiefs, banked on Maureen Loren and guest player Iumi Yangco, who delivered the goods in the final set to frustrate the rallying Lady Cobras and kick off their campaign in the league on an inspiring note.
After dropping the third set, Saint Benilde had a chance to wrap it all up in the fourth after erecting a 23-19 lead. But SWU, the reigning champion in CESAFI back home in Cebu, struck back and took the last six points behind Lady Cobras’ reinforcement Lutgarda Malaluan to send the match into a deciding fifth set.
But the Lady Blazers put their act together as Loren, Yangco and the power-hitting pair of Therese Veronas and Jeanette Panaga took turns in blasting the hits that the Lady Cobras had failed to return.
“After we lost the fourth set where we should have won, I told them not to take our opponents for granted in the fifth,” said St. Benilde coach Michael Carino.
The Taft-based squad, which has had so-so finishes in past campaigns in the league sponsored by Shakey’s and backed by Mikasa, Accel and Lion Tiger Mosquito Coil, tries to wrest the solo lead tomorrow as it faces off with Arellano U, which swept its first two games.
Interestingly, it will serve as a grudge match between two teams that wound up second and third in the last NCAA season won by the Lady Altas.
“That’s a game to watch out and prepare for,” said Carino.
Veronas and Panaga went on to lead the way for the Lady Blazers with a combined 44-hit performance, including 33 on kills, while Loren and Yongco chipped in 16 and eight, respectively, the bulk coming in the final set when they put the Lady Cobras away.
The Lady Cobras, who were led by Janelle Cabahug’s 17, Malaluan’s 13 and Dyan Darantinao’s 10, fell to 1-2 (win-loss).
It was the third straight five-setter in the early going of the country’s premier women’s volley league, further underscoring the level playing field in this year’s staging of the league, which drew a record 12 teams. Group B leader defending champion National U held off UST and Arellano upended reigning UAAP champion Ateneo last Sunday.