Ateneo engineered two come-from-behind set wins before pulling away in the fourth to beat previously undefeated La Salle, 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Wednesday in the UAAP women’s volleyball finals at the Fil Oil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Eagles’ stellar victory led to the Lady Archers’ first setback of the season after gaining a thrice-to-beat advantage in the finals through an unbeaten elimination round. Ateneo also won for the first time against De La Salle since December 2007.
Ateneo virtually tied the series at one game apiece and tuned the championship showdown into a best-of-three. Game Two is on Saturday at the same venue.
“We evened the playing field,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb. “Twice-to-beat pa rin sila pero at least nag-level up na ang series.”
Alyssa Valdez and Fille Cainglet overcame De La Salle’s defense to power Ateneo to victory. The rookie from University of Santo Tomas had 24 points while Cainglet added 19 points including three aces.
Dzi Gervacio added 12 points and Gretchen Ho contributed 10 for the Lady Eagles.
The Lady Archers could have won the second and third sets had not for the Lady Eagles’ spirits.
Trailing by three points, 22-19, the Lady Eagles even forced setpoint when Cainglet scored off a block. Ateneo finished the second with Cainglet unloading back-to-back hits, 28-26.
La Salle was again ahead, 20-16, in the third but Ateneo poured it on tying the match at 22 and turning up the notch afterwards with kills from Valdez and Gervacio to move one set away from claiming first blood of the series.
Ateneo never wavered in the fourth taking a 16-7 lead after a 5-5 tie. La Salle clustered five straight points after that but could not avert a Lady Eagle win with Gervacio ending the match on an attack.
La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus agreed that the second set loss was big for the team.
“Naubos ang diskarte noong second set. Maganda ang linaro ng mga rookies pero nagstruggle ‘yung mga veterans,” said De Jesus.
Abigail Marano led the Lady Archers with 17 and Michelle Gumabao and Victonara Galang had 14 each.