National U sets out for another Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference coronation tonight, hoping to ride on whatever momentum it had gained from its scrambling five-set thriller over Ateneo at the Philsports Arena last Monday.
But the Lady Eagles will be coming into the 6 p.m. clash also brimming with confidence, knowing they can beat the fancied Lady Bulldogs with their brand of game and big fighting heart that nearly toppled the defending champions in Game One.
Ateneo, behind its solid blocking, actually controlled the early going of the fifth set, leading by five points twice and moving at match point twice, 14-13 and 15-14. But the Lady Bulldogs displayed championship poise and foiled the Lady Eagles, racking up four of the next five points to steal a 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 25-18, 18-16 decision to the delight of the big Monday crowd at the Pasig arena.
Tonight’s Game Two may or may not match the series’ opener’s level of intensity and thrill where momentum changed sides in every hit, block, serve and dig made. Miscues also came aplenty but they proved insignificant when the match went down to the wire.
Ateneo unleashed a surprise package in Jhoanna Maraguinot, who didn’t see action since the start of the mid-season conference of the league sponsored by Shakey’s due to injury but showed up like she didn’t miss a beat, launching those graceful spikes on both sides that kept the Lady Eagles in flight, the last giving Ateneo a 14-13 lead in the fifth.
But the Lady Bulldogs had other things in mind. With their bread-and-butter play (quick sets by Jasmine Nabor for Jaja Santiago) checked in the decider, they went to the next best option – Aiko Urdas, who responded to assistant coach Edjet Mabbayad’s call and fired NU’s three of the last four points to clinch the win.
Santiago will again be NU’s main weapon after the prized 6-5 skipper unleashed a season-high 31-hit feat Monday but the Lady Bulldogs boast of a slew of aces ready to step up and deliver the goods, even at crunchtime.
Urdas finished with 18 while Jorelle Singh had 10, Joy Doromal chipped in seven and Risa Sato and Nabor each contributed six hits for the Lady Bulldogs, who swept the Lady Eagles in sudden death to claim last year’s crown in the league backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter.
But Ateneo is out for a payback and Thai coach Tai Bundit hopes to fire up his overachieving crew all the more in Game Two and force a decider on Saturday.
Maraguinot wound up with nine in her comeback game but is expected to settle down and turn in a more productive outing along with Ana Gopico, who turned in an 18-hit game, skipper Michelle Morente, who pumped in 14 points, and Julianne Samonte, who added eight markers.
Meanwhile, FEU also goes for a sweep of its best-of-three series for third with UP after the Lady Tams pounded out a tough 25-23, 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 15-9 win, also last Monday. Gametime is at 4 p.m.
Both matches will be aired live on ABS-CBN Sports + Action Channel 23 and S + A HD 166 and via streaming on sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/vleague, according to the organizing Sports Vision.