Ateneo overcame a gritty St. Benilde side and pulled through in a pulsating decider to complete a stirring come-from-behind 23-25, 18-25, 25-8, 25-20, 15-10 victory yesterday for its fourth straight win in Group B of the Shakey’s V-League Season 12-Collegiate Conference before a big weekend crowd at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Lady Eagles leaned on Alyssa Valdez’s vaunted power game in the decider and pounced on the Lady Blazers’ costly service miscues and attacking errors to complete their fightback from 0-2 down and put them within a win from sweeping the single round robin elims of the mid-season conference of the league where it all started.
St. Benilde dropped to third at 2-2 behind UST (2-1), keeping fifth-running Technological Institute of the Philippines (1-2) in the hunt for a spot in the quarters of the event sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
Valdez uncorked all but one of Ateneo’s five-point binge that turned a 4-5 deficit into a 9-5 advantage in the fifth set which they used as a cushion to ward off the Lady Blazers’ final rally they themselves spoiled with attacking errors, the last two ending the thrilling duel in 1:52.
“It’s all about teamwork,” said Valdez after carrying the Lady Eagles in their most toughest match thus far after a virtual cruise in the first three games in the tournament backed by Mikasa and Accel.
It’s also all about the prized Ateneo ace’s power and talent, which came into fore again with a 32-hit performance, she highlighted with five aces.
Bea de Leon backed her up with 11 points while Jhoanna Maraguinot, Amy Ahomiro, Kim Gequillana, Maddeline Madayag and Gizelle Tan combined for 26 markers.
It was a sorry setback for the gutsy Lady Blazers, who surprised the Lady Eagles with a gritty, superb all around game in the first two frames, including a come-from-behind win in the opener that saw them rack up four of the last five points to steal the set.
Playing inspired, they dominated the second but dropped the next two in the face of the reigning UAAP champions’ vicious comeback anchored on Valdez.
But they came out strong in the fifth, scoring the first two hits, yielding the next three points but took three of the next four to grab a 5-4 lead on a Navarro attack.
After falling 5-9, the Lady Blazers pulled to within, 8-10, on a Jeanette Panaga kill and stayed within two, 10-12, on Panaga and Navarro’s attacks that negated their two service errors.
But Valdez came soaring for a vicious kill that pierced through two St. Benilde defenders and slipped through Panaga’s arms near the baseline then the Lady Eagles wrapped up the match on back-to-back St. Benilde attacks that went long.
Panaga topscored for St. Benilde with 17 hits while Navarro added 14 makers and Melanie Torres and Ellaine Dolorito combined for 15 points.
Meanwhile, Far Eastern U tries to match Ateneo’s 4-0 mark in Group A as it battles University of the Philippines (2-1) in today’s (Sunday) featured matched to be aired live at 12:45 p.m., also on GMA News TV Channel.
Arellano joined unbeaten FEU in the quarters later as it whipped also-ran University of Batangas, 25-4, 25-23, 25-16, to move to solo second at 3-1 in Group A action.
Skipper Joy Rosario scored 12 hits while Menchie Tubiera had 10 and Joviely Prado, Danna Henson, guest player Carmina Aganon and Shirley Salamagos combined for 26 points for the Lady Chiefs, who disposed off the Lady Brahmans in just 61 minutes.
UB, led by Krissa Madalogdog with nine points and Kimberly Jamilla and Lalyn Garcia with six hits apiece, dropped to 0-4.