DE La Salle battled back from two sets down to beat rival Ateneo on Saturday and move within a win of a third successive UAAP women's volley championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Spikers looked down and out after losing the first two sets before rediscovering their form, pulling off a gutsy 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6 victory before a crowd of 17,480 at the Big Dome.
Michelle Gumabao scored 15 points to win Player of the Game honors in a five-set thriller that mirrored the Lady Spikers' comeback from two sets down against the same team in their first-round meeting.
"Hindi kami nawalan ng tiwala sa sarili namin," said Gumabao during the post-game interview.
It was a sorry loss for the Lady Eagles, who had golden chances to wrap up the match in the third and fourth sets before collapsing in the fifth as La Salle turned up its defense at the net by a notch.
La Salle, which has now won 15 straight games going back to the eliminations, can wrap up the championship when Game Two is played on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena - site of their second-round victory over the Lady Eagles which drew a record crowd of 19,638 fans.
From a tight 5-4 contest, the Lady Spikers pounded the Lady Eagles with a 5-1 run to take the driver’s seat, 10-5.
La Salle sustained the momentum until the finish, coming up with five straight points capped by a Gumabao attack down the line to seal the win for the Taft-based spikers in two hours and three minutes.
Ateno looked in firm control two sets up and ahead 9-3 in the third, but La Salle came up with seven straight points to snatch the momentum and extend the match.
“Nahirapan kami sa first two sets, at challenge sa amin yun,” added Gumabao.
Sophomore Ara Galang led La Salle with 17 points, all from spikes, Mika Reyes added 15, and team captain Abigail Marano had 11.
Although the Lady Spikers gave out 48 points to Ateneo from its team errors, the Lady Spikers won in the blocking department with 10 against four by the Lady Eagles.
Alyssa Valdez and Fille Cainglet led the Lady Eagles with 17 and 14 markers, respectively.
“We have to accept what happened,” said Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb. “Napabayaan namin yung mga errors, nag-misreceive nang nag-misreceive.”
La Salle have now won 13 of the last 14 games against Ateneo dating back to UAAP Season 71 in 2008-2009.
“La Salle played a good game. They have a bigger heart than us siguro ngayon,” said Gorayeb.