ATENEO trounced National University in a thrilling fourth set duel, hacking out a two-point win and completing its comeback from a set down for a 15-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-23 victory to formalize its claim on the No. 1 spot in the Final Four of the Shakey's V-League Season 12-Collegiate Conference at The Arena in San Juan City on Saturday.
The Lady Eagles blew a three-point lead late in the fourth frame but gallantly fought back from 17-20 down behind Alyssa Valdez, Amy Ahomiro and Bea de Leon to frustrate the Lady Bulldogs and notch their seventh straight win that capped their sweep of the elims and the quarters of the tournament presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
Valdez, doing what she does best, blasted in four hits, while Ahomiro banged in two of her own and De Leon came through with a timely block off Aiko Urdas to end the thrilling one-hour, 31-minute encounter between two of the best teams in the league sponsored by Shakey’s.
“Coach (Tai) kept reminding us to just play happy and enjoy the game,” said Valdez. “But everybody played well and we’re happy to get the win.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who overwhelmed the Lady Eagles in the opening set but dropped the next two, actually looked poised of sending the match into a deciding fifth as Pablo and Jaja Santiago led a sizzling NU six-hit roll that shoved them to a 20-17 lead in the fourth.
But Ahomiro scored on a quick set and an ace while Valdez, moving over to the front row, scored four, including a soft tip to lift the Lady Eagles to a 23-22 lead.
The Ateneo skipper made an error in the next play to enable NU to draw level but rebounded with an attack in deep right before De Leon foiled Urdas’ spike that bounced back into an unguarded spot in the left side of the NU court.
NU settled for No. 2 on a 5-2 slate for a clash with the No. 3 squad in the Final Four of the event backed by Mikasa and Accel and organized by Sports Vision.
UST and FEU, tied at 4-2, will dispute the No. 3 spot, with the loser facing the specter of going through a playoff with Arellano U (3-3), in case the Lady Chiefs get past the ousted St. Benilde Lady Blazers at the close of the quarters phase on Sunday.
Valdez finished with 28 points, including 25 attack points, while Ahomiro added 10 markers and Jhoanna Maraguinot, De Leon, Gizelle Tan, Kim Gequillana and guest player Kayla Tianco-William combined for 19 hits.
Tan also produced 29 excellent sets.
NU tapped former ace setter Rubie de Leon, who delivered 24 excellent sets, the bulk of which she made in the opening set which the Lady Bulldogs dominated.
But the Bustillos-based squad failed to stop Ateneo’s fightback in the next three and blew its chance to snare the top seeding from the reigning UAAP champions.
Pablo and Dindin Santiago-Manabat came away with 14 hits apiece, while Jaja Santiago added 10 points, Urdas and De Leon chipped in five markers each and skipper Jorelle Singh came up with four hits for the Lady Bulldogs, who are still tipped to meet the Lady Eagles in the finals.