University of Santo Tomas survived Ateneo in a seesaw fourth set duel, overcoming a first set loss with a 16-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 victory in the opener of their best-of-three title showdown in the Shakey’s V-League Presented by SMART Sunday at The Arena in San Juan.
After a a 20-22 deficit in the fourth set, the Tigresses rallied to tie the match at 23-all, which was shattered by Maruja Banaticla’ vicious spike off top blocker Lithawat Kesinee to propel the Tigresses to victory and move the six-time champions within a win from the title after a two-year absence.
The Tigresses will go for the title clincher Tuesday.
Judy Caballejo topscored for UST with 15 hits, while Banaticla contributed 14 hits. Maika Ortiz also helped the Tigresses with her 13 hits, as well as Mary Jean Balse who chipped in 11 hits.
The gritty Tigresses also neutralized Kesinee’s superb job at the net that produced seven blocks. Alyssa Valdez (20 points), Kesinee (16), Fille Cainglet (14), and Dzi Gervacio (13) led the Lady Eagles, who suffered their first loss after winning 10 straight games.
After seizing a 2-1 lead, the Tigresses battled the Lady Eagles in a series of lead changes in the fourth, trailing in the early going before wresting an 11-9 lead. Ateneo struck back to grab a 14-12 edge only to fall behind again on a four-point run by UST.
Ateneo regained control of the fourth set many times, but Tigresses Ortiz and Balse conspired to spark the UST rally and win the match.
Earlier, San Sebastian College hacked out a 25-14, 25-23, 16-25, 32-34,15-9 victory over University of Perpetual Help to take the opener for the battle for third.
Thai ace Jeng Bualee fired 33 kills as she bucked a knee injury in the fourth set by lifting the Lady Stags past the pesky Lady Altas with seven hits in the match-decider.
“She’s a fighter. She really doesn’t back down from a fight, a real MVP,” said SSC coach Clint Malazo of Bualee, who later bagged the conference MVP honors.
Joining Bualee, also named the best scorer, in the league’s top players of the conference are Utaiwan Kaensing of UST (best attacker), Ateneo’s Lithawat Kesinee (best blocker), UST’s Judy Caballejo (best server), Angelique Dionela of Perpetual Help (best digger), Ateneo’s Denden Lazaro (best receiver) and Sandra delos Santos of Perpetual (most improved player).