Ateneo, La Salle enter UAAP volleyball semis

By Dugout Philippines

Defending champion Ateneo secured the first twice-to-beat semifinals incentive, even as La Salle notched its seventh straight post-season stint in the UAAP Season 77 women's volleyball tournament yesterday at the Filoil Flying V Arena.

The Lady Eagles committed less errors in a surprisingly easy 25-18, 25-18, 25-18 victory over University of the Philippines to remain perfect in 10 starts while the Lady Spikers overcame National University, 25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25. 
Ateneo is making its sixth straight Final Four appearance and the seventh in the last eight seasons. The Lady Eagles are also assured of finishing in the Top 2 after the eliminations for the third time in the last four years.

"Wow talaga!" said a jubilant Alyssa Valdez, who led the Lady Eagles with 20 points, including three service aces. "I think, kasi lahat ng pagod and the rough schedule talaga games, as in sunod-sunod, and all the sacrifices are worth it."

Morado delivered 30 excellent sets, and had eight points, including two service aces, and five digs for the Lady Eagles, who committed only 17 errors.

La Salle mentor Ramil de Jesus was satisfied for his team's accomplishment of keeping its Final Four streak alive but of course, there's a more important task ahead to be on top.

"Yun lahat ang goal ng bawat teams (Final Four). Pero nagpa-practice kami hindi para mag-second or third. Nagpa-practice kami para maging first, nagte-training kami para doon," said de Jesus, after his troops improved to 9-1.

Playing catch up most of the fourth set, the Lady Spikers avoided from being dragged to a decider after the Lady Bulldogs' 6-foot-4 tower Jaja Santiago's spike went too strong for the match point moments after Ara Galang drained the go-ahead hit which shattered the 25-25 standoff.
Mika Reyes had three blocks and two service aces to finish with 15 points, while Galang added 14 hits for the La Salle.

NU dropped in a tie with UP in fifth spot at 4-6, now trailing joint third placers UST and Far Eastern University in the race for the two remaining semis slots. 

Jaja Santiago finished with 25 points, including five blocks for the Lady Bulldogs, who lost three straight after opening the coach Roger Gorayeb era with two consecutive victories.

Rookie Marian Buitre, who filled the huge void left by injured middle hitter Kathy Bersola, scored four blocks to finish with a career-high 13 points but her efforts was not enough for the Lady Maroons to absorb a second straight loss.

UP dragged Ateneo in five sets in their first meeting earlier this month, but the Katipunan-based spikers are a different team right now without Bersola.