Lady Bulldogs clip Eagles, force rubber match
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - National U drew inspiration from Dindin Manabat’s return as it routed a sluggish Ateneo side, 25-22, 25-17, 25-17, yesterday to force a sudden death for the Shakey’s V-League Season 12-Collegiate Conference crown at The Arena in San Juan City. 

The Lady Bulldogs held Alyssa Valdez to a low nine-hit output and dominated the Lady Eagles all throughout with their power game and superb blocking while pouncing on the Lady Eagles’ poor service reception to fashion out the victory that leveled the best-of-three series at one game apiece.

The rubber match will be played Oct. 4 starting at 12:45 p.m., also at The Arena, with NU hoping to duplicate its title conquest of Ateneo in Season 10 where it dropped the first game but swept the next two to claim its first collegiate title in the league sponsored by Shakey’s and presented by PLDT Home Ultera.

The Lady Bulldogs’ swift 77-minute demolition of their fancied rivals likewise kept the predominantly pro-Ateneo crowd at the jampacked arena silent, gingerly waiting for a Valdez explosion that never came.

What transpired was NU’s domination of an erratic Ateneo squad as Jaja Santiago stood out with 13 hits, mostly on quick sets and running drop shots, and Myla Pablo banged away 12 big points.

Manabat’s return after missing the series’ opener, handily won by Ateneo, 25-19, 25-13, 25-23, also boosted the Lady Bulldogs’ confidence as the school’s guest player matched Pablo’s output, providing the additional firepower and endgame poise lacking in their Game One loss.

But NU coach Roger Gorayeb stressed it was the team’s solid reception and better service game that keyed their victory.

“It’s not Dindin, actually, but more on our reception. We received well today (yesterday) than the last time,” said Gorayeb in Filipino. “It also helped that we had fewer service errors, I counted it. We probably committed just three or four in this game.”

NU delivered 35 attack points against Ateneo’s measly 28, produced seven blocks against its rival’s three and came away with 11 aces against the Lady Eagles’ poor service reception.

Valdez, seeking to cap another explosive campaign that netted her the MVP honors in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel, struggled with her attacks in the face of the Lady Bulldogs’ solid net defense, converting just eight attack points out of 26 tries. Her nine-point production was her lowest in years but she still proved to be Ateneo’s top scorer as Jhoanna Maraguinot, Amy Ahomiro, Kim Gequillana and Bea De Leon finished with six points apiece.

Valdez actually scored five points against San Sebastian last July 19 although she only played in the third set.

Ruby de Leon also outplayed counterpart Gizelle Tan as the veteran setter produced 28 excellent sets, 11 more than Ateneo’s playmaker while adding five hits to the Lady Bulldogs’ total output.

“Rubie is helping the team a lot because she sets up our attack well. Her experience is really helping my younger players, she has provided maturity to the team,” said Gorayeb of de Leon.

Foiled in their comeback bid in the first two sets and trailing majority of the third, the Lady Eagles strung up five straight points behind Valdez, Ahomiro and Maraguinot and a de Leon net violation to pull within, 15-17. But Ateneo made a violation in the ensuing play and the Lady Bulldogs cashed in and took eight of the last 10 points, the last from Maraguinot’s spike from the back row that sailed long.

Meanwhile, Far Eastern U repeated over UST, 25-16, 25-23, 25-17, to clinch third place honors last Saturday.

Jovelyn Gonzaga fired 15 hits while fellow guest player Honey Royce Tubino and Bernadeth Pons added 12 points apiece for the Lady Tams, who pounced on a listless UST side in the first set then went on to fashion out a follow-up to their 17-25, 25-17, 25-10, 25-20 victory in the opener of the best-of-three series last week.

Skipper Pam Lastimosa and Ennajie Laure made 10 hits each for UST, which also drew seven and six points from Carmela Tunay and Jessey de Leon but just could not neutralize FEU’s power game and superb blocking.

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