The Ateneo De Manila University Lady Eagles ended the quest of National University veteran Dindin Santiago with a 25-22, 8-25, 25-19, 25-22 victory to oust NU and gain another title crack against the formidable De La Salle University Lady Spikers.
The Lady Spikers face Ateneo on Wednesday, March 5 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Alyssa Valdez again led the charge as the Lady Eagles ousted the No.2 seed Lady Bulldogs to gain a title crack against the four-peat seeking La Salle, which owns a formidable thrice-to-beat advantage.
This means Ateneo will have to beat La Salle three times to win the championship. In contrast La Salle need win only twice to become champion of the UAAP volleyball tournament.
Valdez scattered 22 points while hammering 16 kills on top of five blocks. Ateneo clawed back from a woeful second set to nail its second straight Finals appearance, and a first for Ateneo’s Thai rookie coach Anusorn Bundit, who celebrated with his wards at center court.
“It was tough. But we stuck with the game plan and played in a team concept,” said Asunsorn through an interpreter. The Ateneo coach left the team midway through the first round to fulfill his duties with the Thai national team.
That Ateneo de Manila University made sure on Saturday as the Lady Eagles completed its Finals return with a gutsy drubbing of a twice-to-beat National University (NU) in their winner-take-all stepladder final before a sea of white-and-blue at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ella de Jesus provided the Lady Eagles with 12 points while Amy Ahomiro and rookie Michelle Morente combined for 18 markers.
Dindin Santiago led NU with 19 points to cap her final year of eligibility on a sour note even as sister Jaja contributed 14 for the Lady Bulldogs. Leaving a forgettable second set behind, Ateneo regrouped on the defensive end to keep NU at bay, 16-13. Valdez then twisted her ankle in one sequence but the power-hitting Ateneo captain quickly returned to finish off the bewildered Lady Bulldogs.
Down by a set anew, the Lady Bulldogs immediately got to the board, 8-5, in the fourth set. But the Lady Eagles stayed in flight, exploiting the Lady Bulldogs’ mental lapses. Valdez delivered a block and a kill to give Ateneo a commanding 23-18 lead for good.