DEFENDING champion Perpetual Help overpowered Lyceum of the Philippines, 25-21, 25-18, 25-22, on Tuesday to level the title series in the juniors division of the 92nd NCAA volleyball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
Ivan Encila paced the Junior Altas with 11 hits including 10 off spikes while Ryuji Condrad Etorma and Marvien Castillo scattered 10 points apiece as the Junior Altas took first blood in the battle with the thrice-to-beat Junior Pirates, reducing the series to a virtual best-of-three.
LPU clinched the finals incentive after sweeping the elimination round in seven matches while Perpetual had to beat Emilio Aguinaldo twice in the stepladder semis to advance.
"I kept telling my players who won last year because we showed heart and I'm happy they responded by playing well in this game," said Perpetual Help coach Sandy Rieta.
The Altas got back at the Pirates, who won in five sets in their elimination-round meeting.
"We learned our lesson," said Rieta.
Perpetual Help is eyeing a three-peat feat and its ninth championship overall, the league's second most behind San Sebastian's 15.
The second match is set on Friday, the third next Tuesday, while a fourth match, if necessary, is set Feb. 16.