National University (NU) stunned second seed De La Salle University, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19, to force a rubber match in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 women’s volleyball stepladder semifinals on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Power hitting Myla Pablo and Jaja Santiago delivered the goods for the Lady Bulldogs, scoring 13 points each while Jorelle Singh and Rizza Jane Mandapat provided the needed support with 11 and 10, respectively.
“La Salle has the liberty to lose this game kasi twice-to-beat sila. Pero hindi pa rin kami pwedeng mag-relax. Marami pa kaming dapat gawin [para mag-improve],” said NU head coach Roger Gorayeb.
Ara Galang was the lone bright spot for erstwhile twice-to-beat La Salle, scoring 14 markers.
The do-or-die match is scheduled on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
In the men’s division, year’s runner-up Ateneo de Manila University tamed defending champion NU, 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22, to take the Game 1 of their best-of-three championship showdown.
Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Marck Espejo fired 31 points on 28 attacks, two aces and one block to power the Blue Eagles to a commanding 1-0 series lead.
“Our players are just too hungry to win. They maintained their composure especially in the fourth set,” said Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro.
Skipper Ysrael Marasigan also made his presence felt by nailing 22 points while Joshua Villanueva and Ishmael Rivera combined for 16 points. Playmaker Ish Polvoroza had 57 excellent sets.
“There’s no room for complacency. They [NU] are the defending champions and they’re capable of coming out strong come Game 2. We have to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually,” added Almadro.
Jan Berlin Paglinawan topscored for the Bulldogs with 15 while Peter Den Mar Torres had 14 and Edwin Tolentino chipped in 11.
The Game 2 is also set on Saturday at 2 p.m.
In softball, defending titlist Adamson University destroyed Ateneo, 18-0, to move within two wins of clinching an outright finals berth.
The Lady Falcons, who improved to 10-0, extended their remarkable winning run to 58 games.
In other games, NU nipped La Salle, 6-5, to move up to third place with a 6-5 card, while University of Santo Tomas edged University of the Philippines, 3-2, to tie its victims in fourth spot at 5-5.
Games on Saturday (MOA Arena)
2 p.m. NU vs Ateneo
(Game 2 men’s finals)
4 p.m. NU vs DLSU
(women’s rubber match)