By Ricky Manliguis
QUEZON CITY-- The Final Four Cast is now complete.
University of Santo Tomas overcome a two-set deficit to pull off an emotionally-charged 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-12 victory over National University and claim the final semifinal ticket in the first game of the final match day of UAAP Season LXXIX women's volleyball tournament Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Behind the inspired perfromances of captain Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure, the girls from España got their bearings back starting in the third to shock the Lady Bulldogs in two hours and 17 minutes to the delight of the yellow-clad crowd.
With the win, UST finished its elimination round campaign in third place with a 9-5 win loss card for its first post-season berth after four years. They will now await for the loser of the marquee match-up between Ateneo and La Salle playing as of presstime.
Rondina and Laure both cashed in 22 points while joining forces in 40 of UST's 62 total attacks. "Magic bunot" Chrsitine Francisco had a brilliant game with 11 markers, while Ria Meneses chipped in 10.
Laure had an injury scare in the deciding third set, landing her right foot awkwardly after a Jaja Santiago block for a 13-12 UST lead. Despite the obvious pain, the third-year outside hitter played on.
"Ang hirap ng laro, this is for the semifinals kaya iba na ang istorya ng labanan. Hindi na ito ‘yung basta-basta sumusuko 'yung both teams. Kung sinong kukurap, yun ang madidisgrasya,” a jovial coach Kungfu Reyes said after the match.
“Hanggang sa dulo, pitpitan talaga kami. Bwenas lang at kami 'yung nakakuha ng panalo," he later added.
Jaja Santiago fired a game-high 30 points on 25 kills as NU failed to enter the Final Four for the second consecutive year, falling to a tie with University of the Philippines at 7-7.
Jorelle Singh and Aiko Sweet Urdas finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.