Lady Eagles seal title clash vs Bulldogs

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Ateneo’s Ana Gopico defies FEU’s two-block stand put up by Anne Guino-o and Jerrili Malabanan as she knocks in a kill during Game Two of their Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference semis duel Wednesday night. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo’s Ana Gopico defies FEU’s two-block stand put up by Anne Guino-o and Jerrili Malabanan as she knocks in a kill during Game Two of their Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference semis duel Wednesday night. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo rallied from a big deficit in the fourth set then pounced on Far Eastern U’s meltdown to post a 25-23, 24-26, 25-19, 25-23 victory late Wednesday and seal a second straight showdown with National U for the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference crown at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

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Bea de Leon and Kim Gequillana stepped up and combined for 26 attack points while skipper Michelle Morente, Ana Gopico, Julia Morado, Julianne Samonte and Pauline Gaston backed them up with superb all-around games to clinch the victory for the over-achieving Lady Eagles.

Ateneo, which also took the series’ opener, 25-14, 28-26, 25-22, last Monday, thus matched NU’s sweep of University of the Philippines in their side of the Final Four to arrange another face-off for the mid-season conference title of Season 13 of the league sponsored by Shakey’s.

The Lady Bulldogs frustrated the then Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles in a rubber match to nail their second collegiate crown in the league backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter.

Game One of the best-of-three title series will start on Monday, along with Game Two of the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference Finals, according to the organizing Sports Vision.

With Valdez firing up her former teammates from the sidelines, the Lady Eagles battled back from six-points down in the fourth to foil the Lady Tams from sending the match to a fifth set.

De Leon turned in a solid outing and finished with 20 hits while Morente, now taking the lead role for a depleted, young squad, put in a 15-point game and Gequillana added 12 markers and Gopico chipped in 10 points.

Though the finals will be an entirely different series, the Lady Eagles have proven their worth, surviving a series of knockout games to snare the last semifinal berth and then upending the top seeded FEU side in the Final Four.

It also helped that one of FEU’s top hitter Bernadeth Pons failed to see action for the second straight time after sustaining an ankle injury during pre-game warm-up in Game One.

Still, Toni Rose Basas and Mary Joy Palma, along with Celine Domingo, Jerrili Malabanan, Kyle Negrito, Anne Guino-o and Jeanette Villareal carried the fight for the Lady Tams, who looked headed to sending the match into a decider after controlling the early going of the fourth.

But they cracked in the face of the Lady Eagles’ fiery comeback and the Loyola-based school found itself back in the title hunt with a roster that once seemed uncertain of even getting it past the eliminations.

Earlier, with Jaja Santiago on the firing end, National U clipped UP, 21-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-21, to likewise sweep their semis playoff.

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