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Ateneo draws near outright Finals berth; La Salle scores

By Dugout Philippines

Defending champion Ateneo beat UST, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22, to move two victories away in bagging an outright championship berth in the UAAP Season 77 women's volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.        

The Lady Eagles overcame 24 errors to improve to 12-0, as the pressure for the double-round sweep mounts.

"We are really thankful we survived this game talaga. It was very well played. Yung UST, sobrang ganda ng game nila, yung depensa nila. Ipinapakita sa amin na marami pang kailangan na mai-improve," said reigning MVP Alyssa Valdez, who led Ateneo with 21 hits.   

The Tigresses battled toe to toe in the second and third sets but the Lady Eagles again showed toughness down the stretch to stay unbeaten in the first of a week-long, three-game stretch to end their elimination round campaign.            

Earlier, early semifinalist La Salle made quick work of UE, 25-6, 25-17, 25-17, for its 11th win in 12 matches.        

After the Lady Warriors on Sunday, the Lady Eagles will face the Lady Spikers in a potential clincher for an automatic championship slot on Feb. 18.        

After trailing 9-12 in the third set, Valdez, Michelle Morente and Amy Ahomiro combined in Ateneo's mighty onslaught to move closer to match point.       

The Tigresses made one final stand, with Ria Meneses scoring two of the three straight points after coach Odjie Mamon's last timeout before the Lady Eagles closed out the game with a Valdez smashing kill.        

UST has now lost two straight, dropping out of the Magic 4 with a 5-7, as it now trails joint third placers Adamson University and National University by half a game.        

Meneses, EJ Laure and Pam Lastimosa finished with nine hits apiece for the Tigresses.       

Ara Galang had two service aces to finish with 10 points, while Mika Reyes scored all of her 10 hits from attacks for La Salle.    

Angelica Dacaymat had nine points, while Shaya Adorador chipped in five markers and three digs for 0-12 UE, which briefly led, 11-10, in the third set before faltering.         
With the game so lopsided, La Salle finally fielded in Aduke Ogunsanya for the first time and quickly made her presence felt by scoring two blocks.