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Ateneo subdues La Salle, books Finals ticket

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--In a night where its opponent pulled off some surprises from its sleeves, Ateneo banked on one of its own shockers to complete the regular season sweep.

Jhoana Maraguinot delivered the killer blows as the Lady Eagles completed the 14-0 sweep of the elimination round with a 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 27-25 win against the De La Salle Lady Spikers in the nightcap of a lone UAAP women's volleyball triple header at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Maraguinot scored the match's final two points to give her team the outright Finals berth with a thrice-to-beat advantage as a bonus.

In the game that decided the playoff format to be used this season, the Ateneo bucked yet another error-prone game and extended their head-to-head winning streak against La Salle to four as the latter also committed costly mistakes late.

The Lady Spikers looked to keep Set 3 close as they stay in track with the Lady Eagles. However, the Lady Spikers lost the set as they made two errors at the end of the set.

La Salle looked to bounce back as it took a 19-17 lead. Ateneo, however, bounced back and eventually put itself at match point with a 24-22 lead.

The Lady Spikers, who made a huge roster tweak late in the match as Coach Ramil De Jesus assigned Des Cheng as a setter, took advantage of the Lady Eagles' errors to force the extension of the set, but they conceded the lead anew as Camille Cruz committed a service error. However, Jia Morado also made a service error, and the set was tied again, 25-all.

Maraguinot then finally stepped up as she made two spikes to end the match and force a stepladder playoff format. She finished with a career-high ten points, all on attacks.

Alyssa Valdez top-scored for Ateneo with 29 points on 24 spikes, two blocks, and three aces. Bea De Leon, the other surprise package for Ateneo, staved off the pain of her hand injury and added 11.

Ara Galang led La Salle with 20 points even as Mary Joy Baron, who made a surprise start as well, added six.