UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help moved a win away from clinching a third straight NCAA women's volleyball championship.
The Lady Altas dominated the deciding set to turn back Arellano
University, 27-29, 25-13, 25-16, 21-25, 15-9, in Game 1 of the Finals Friday at The Arena in San Juan.
Honey Tubino came away with a game-high 27 points to lead the two-time reigning champion take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, while Jamela Suyat and reigning league MVP Norie Jane Diaz chipped in 14 and 13 markers, respectively.
The Lady Altas are expected to go for the title on Monday when Game 2 is played at the same venue
After losing a tight opening set, the Las Piñas-based Lady Altas took control of the second and third set, but relaxed in the fourth to give the Lady Chiefs, first time league finalists, a shot at a deciding set.
"I told them na sa fourth set nag-relax na sila kaya nabigyan nila ng pagkakataon na makahinga 'yung Arellano. Kaya sa fifth set I told them to use their champion heart, all out na at hangga't maaari walang mali," said UPH coach Sammy Acaylar.
From a close 5-5 contest, the Lady Altas came through with a telling 8-1 run following five errors by the Lady Chiefs to take a commanding 13-6 lead.
Team captain Lexy Lou Oserio stopped the bleeding for the Lady Chiefs by scoring three consecutive points to threaten at 9-13.
But the Lady Altas got the winning points from Nikka Cariño, who failed to cross the ball to the other side from the service line, and Oserio, who also committed an error.
Still, Acaylar appeared far from satisfied.
"But then hindi ako satisfied sa game," admitted the outspoken coach. "We worked hard for this, we studied the set play of the opponent kasi napakalakas talaga ng Arellano."
Arellano's offensive gems Cristine Rosario, Danna Henson, Shirley Salamagos, and Menchie Tubiera were limited to just 13, nine, and eight points, respectively.