DEFENDING champion De La Salle clinched the top seeding in the Final Four of the UAAP women's volleyball tournament with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-21 victory over rival Ateneo before the largest crowd to watch a volleyball game in the league's history.
Michelle Gumabao came away with 14 points, from nine spikes, three blocks, and two service aces to lead the Lady Spikers, who posted their 12th straight win of the tournament in a highly anticipated match that lived up to its billing.
The first volleyball match to be staged at the MOA Arena in Pasay drew a sellout crowd of 19,638 fans - perhaps the biggest to watch a volleyball game featuring local players in the country's history and just slightly lower than the 20,000-strong crowd the last UAAP basketball finals drew.
Saturday's crowd may even be bigger than the attendance the World Grand Prix matches drew at the smaller Philsports Arena during the time of Leila Barros and crowd favorite Brazil early last decade.
Up by four, 20-16, in the third set, the Lady Spikers wavered a bit and yielded the upper hand, 20-21, before the Lady Eagles collapsed in a maze of errors and poor decisions, allowing La Salle to win the next five points and clinch the match.
"Hindi pa ako satisfied," said DLSU coach Ramil de Jesus after the match. "Pero natutuwa ako sa mga bata."
Mika Reyes chipped in three spikes, six blocks and one service aces for the Lady Spikers, who have not lost since dropping their first game of the campaign.
De La Salle toughened up on its defense, coming up with 18 blocks but gave away 27 points to Ateneo from its team errors.
"Yun ang dapat aayusin namin sa practice," said de Jesus of their miscues. "Kasi lalamang kami tapos humahabol ang kalaban."
Dzi Gervacio led the Lady Eagles with 10 markers, from six hits, three blocks and one service ace, and Alyssa Valdez had a sub-par performance of 10 points.
Ateneo, although still in second spot, absorbed its fourth game in 13 games in the season.