National U survives scare from FEU to move up stepladder playoffs against La Salle
Jaja Santiago and the No. 3 NU Lady Bulldogs live up to their seeding and go deeper in the playoffs, but not before a huge scare from fourth seed FEU. Dante Peralta

THIRD seed National University overcame a late fightback from No. 4 Far Eastern University to score a 25-13, 25-17, 27-25, 25-23 win on Saturday and set up a showdown with second-ranked La Salle in the stepladder playoffs of the UAAP women’s  volleyball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Bulldogs were given a late scare as the Lady Tamaraws stole the third, a set featuring long energy-sapping rallies with much more offspeed shots than power hits.

FEU still looked set to send the match to a deciding set, but the Roger Gorayeb-mentored NU squad recovered by controlling the pace of play late in the fourth, with Jorelle Singh, Myla Pablo and Jaja Santiago putting more power behind their shots to help dispose of the weary FEU side.

FEU was coming off a long and tough playoff match against University of Santo Tomas for the last spot in the stepladder playoffs just three days ago.

[See FEU Lady Tamaraws secure spot in stepladder semis with five-set win in KO match against UST Tigresses

NU, on the other hand, was well-rested after securing a playoff berth with one match to spare and scoring a dominating win over University of the Philippines in a pressure-free final elimination round match last Sunday.

[See National U Lady Bulldogs erase UP Lady Maroons from playoff picture]

The La Salle Lady Spikers hold a twice-to-beat advantage in the showdown with the NU Lady Bulldogs starting on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the final against the Ateneo Lady Eagles, who booked an outright spot in the finals after a 14-match sweep of the eliminations.

[See Will Ateneo be fresh or foggy in finals? Lady Eagles’ break between matches could stretch to 23 days

Pablo scored 22 points, Singh added 20 and Santiago had 19.

FEU defenders could not stop Pablo and Santiago, who scored on consecutive spikes to move NU to match point, 24-23.

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But it was FEU’s Bernadeth Pons who gave NU the wining point after a touch violation.

“Maganda lahat sa first two sets namin, ’yung setting, blocking, combination play, kaya lang sa third set doon lang nila kami nalamangan,” said NU coach Roger Gorayeb.

The veteran mentor, however, was also disappointed to see old habits show up.

“Nalamangan nila kami humahabol na lang kami sa bandang dulo syempre hindi naman papatalo ang kalaban ng ganoon ganoon lang,” he said.

Pons scored 16 points, Heather Guino-o had 13 points and Toni Basas contributed 10 markers.

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