4 p.m. – UST vs Ateneo
Ateneo pulled through in a game of changing fortunes, escaping with a 25-17, 22-25, 25-21, 28-26 victory over University of Santo Tomas to force sudden death in the ninth Shakey’s V-League Presented by SMART finals before a big Tuesday crowd at The Arena in San Juan.
Jorella De Jesus came off the bench to fire four crucial hits, including a thunderous spike that slipped through the hands of two UST net defenders and out of the court for the match-clinching point, ending a tightly-fought battle of power hits and serves, drop shots and reception for the gutsy Lady Eagles.
Alyssa Valdez came away with 31 hits, highlighted by 22 kills and eight service points, while keying two big Ateneo runs in the first and third sets off the serve.
The thrilling 1:46-hour victory thus avenged a similar four-set loss last Sunday and sent the best-of-three series in the league sponsored by Shakey’s Pizza into a winner-take-all, also set on Sunday.
“We live to fight another day. My players were tensed so we committed many errors but it’s a good thing that we were able to adjust in time,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb.
Valdez scored three of the last five points for the Lady Eagles, who pounced on Rhea Dimaculangan’s service error that shattered the last deadlock at 26 before De Jesus took the spotlight with that superb right corner shot.
De Jesus played only in the last minutes of the fourth set but delivered the point that mattered most.
“She (De Jesus) has always been my most reliable reserve, I always field her in when my main players are down,” said Gorayeb in springing another coaching brilliance in a match they could not afford to lose.
Ateneo also got 15 points from Phee Nok Kesinee and 11 hits from Fille Cainglet, while Jem Ferrer kept the Lady Eagles’ play in motion with 56 excellent sets, including a number of back sets.
The Lady Eagles fed off the 25 errors committed by the Tigresses, who had a chance to close out the series but came up short in the face of the Lady Eagles’ determined stand.
Utaiwan Kaensing showed the way for UST with 13 hits and two aces, while Judy Caballejo and Maika Ortiz had 15 points apiece and Maruja Banaticla added 12 points for the Tigresses.
Valdez anchored a big Ateneo comeback in the pivotal third set that saw the Lady Eagles uncork a stirring nine-point splurge with the youthful Valdez serving, turning a 15-20 deficit into a four-point lead.
Although Valdez lost steam and made a service error that made it 24-21, the Lady Eagles made a good reception that set up Cainglet for a kill that pierced through the Tigresses middle defense.
It was also Valdez, who sparked Ateneo’s big finish in the opening set marked by 12 deadlocks.
Earlier, San Sebastian wrapped up the battle for third with a 26-24, 25-17, 24-26, 25-24 victory over Perpetual Help to complete the sweep in their own best-of-three series.
Jang Bualee unloaded another 35-hit output while Analyn Benito and Dafna Robinos added 18 and 11 points, respectively, for the Lady Stags, who needed five sets to repulse the Lady Altas in the opener last Sunday, 25-14, 25-23, 16-25, 32-34, 15-9.
It was the third third place finish for SSC, which won once in the second conference of the 2008 season and had seven runner-up finishes in the league backed by Mikasa and Accel.
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