ATENEO made adjustments on the fly to counter some surprise moves by La Salle, completing a sweet 16-match sweep of the season with a 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 victory to claim back-to-back titles on Saturday in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the MOA Arena.
The Lady Spikers took charge early by putting their weight behind their serves, preventing the Ateneo defense from giving its spikers good looks above the net.
But the Lady Eagles managed to adjust late in the set with Jia Morado showing why she is Best Setter of the season, converting less than perfect reception into workable situations for her spikers.
Morado also again showed she got more to her game than teeing up the hitters, winning jousts and delivering the final two points to seal the straight-sets win in front of a crowd of 20,705.
Michelle Morente joined back-to-back MVP Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado in fueling a seven-point run to seize control in the first, and it was all an Ateneo show after that.
La Salle also crumbled after a fine start that saw them cash in on solid blocking — the Lady Spikers scored five block points and disrupted much of the early attacks by the Lady Eagles in the first set.
The timing started to miss as the match wore on, however, and Lady Eagles found ways to work the ball over and around the Lady Spikers and completed the quick win and helped Ateneo's Thai coach Anusorn Bundit earn his second title in as many seasons.
What started as a high-energy match deteriorated for a bit into an exchange of off-speed hits in the third set, but Valdez did come up with occasional crisp rally-stoppers, with Amy Ahomiro and Bea de Leon also contributing points with solid spikes.
Ateneo thus finished the finals without dropping a set, completed a four-match domination of La Salle for the season and extended win streak to six including the last two matches last season.
Valdez scored 20 points, 19 on attacks, while Morente, De Leon and Ahomiro had 10 points each for Ateneo, which entered the finals with a thrice-to-win advantage after a 14-match sweep of the eliminations.
La Salle clearly struggled without skipper, top scorer and best defender Ara Galang, who suffered major knee injuries in a playoff with National University.
Joy Baron scored nine points to lead La Salle, while Mika Reyes had eight.