Ateneo checked an impending fold-up with a scrambling, gutsy fightback in the decider, hacking out a tense-filled 25-19, 25-14, 17-25, 20-25, 15-13, victory to retain the crown in the Shakey’s V-League Presented by SMART before a jampacked Sunday crowd at The Arena Sunday.
The Lady Eagles willed themselves back after blowing a 2-0 set lead and trailing 1-4 in the fifth, storming to a 12-7 upperhand and then hanging tough to thwart the Tigresses who kept on coming back in a decider that could’ve gone either way.
But in the end, Ateneo wanted it more.
UST ran off six points against Ateneo’s one in the stretch to tie the match for the last time at 13, but Lady Tiger Judy Caballejo blew a hit that went long. Lady Eagle Dzi Gervacio, doing what she does best, came through with a sharp spike that pierced through the Tigresses’ defense to end the most tightly-fought match in Shakey’s V-League history.
It was indeed a fitting ending to the hyped finale between the league’s two leading teams with UST turning what had appeared to be an Ateneo breeze into one thrilling match watched by over 5,000 at The Arena and more than 8,000 fans on live streaming.
The Tigresses even looked headed for a big turnaround after taking the third and fourth sets and then posting a 4-1 lead in the decider as Caballejo and Maika Ortiz came away with back-to-back off-the-block hits.
But the Lady Eagles struck back behind Alyssa Valdez and Thai Phee Nok Kesinee, tying it at 5 and 6 before pouncing on Ortiz’s wide hits and error to post an 8-6 lead.
They stretched it to a five-point lead as Kesinee scored on a quick hit and setter Jem Ferrer made a swipe on an open spot coupled with another UST error. But the Tigresses made one last charge by stringing four straight points, capped by Thai Utaiwan Kaensing’s tip.
Suzanne Roces eased up the pressure with a block but UST took the next two points to force the last deadlock at 13 before Ateneo surged ahead again on Caballejo’s wide hit and Gervacio wrapping up the two-hour encounter with a hit the way she delivered the clinchers in the first two sets.
It was Ateneo’s second championship after sweeping Adamson in last year’s finale while frustrating UST’s bid to nail its seventh championship coming off a two-year absence.
Valdez wound up with 22 hits, including 19 kills, while Kesinee had 15 points and Gervacio added 12. Cainglet finished with nine hits while Ferrer, Gretchen Ho and Roces combined for 15 points.
Ortiz topscored for UST with 18 hits while Caballejo and Utaiwan combined for 33 points and Mary Jean Balse ended up with seven hits for the Tigresses.