NATIONAL University escaped the late fightback of the Bernadeth Pons-less Far Eastern University to hack out a 25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 26-24 win and inch closer to winning the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference title on Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan.
Jaja Santiago put on a show with a game-high 23 points, from 15 kills, four blocks and four service aces, for NU, while Risa Sato and Audrey Paran combined for 23 markers.
Game Two of the best-of-three Finals is on Saturday.
NU coach Babes Castillo, however, did not make an effort to hide his team’s weakness during the game that he hopes to avoid in Game Two.
“I gave them the opportunity to stay calm under pressure, okay na 'yun sa akin. Ang next step now is how to become more mature, how to handle situations na aggressive ka kasi nawala ang aggressiveness namin kanina,” said the outspoken mentor.
The Lady Bulldogs nearly squandered a 12-5 lead in the fourth set when the Lady Tamaraws mounted a comeback and tied the contest, 24-24.
But back-to-back errors from FEU, with Jeanette Villareal’s service error and Celine Domingo’s attack miscue, handed the win to NU.
“We will try our best to win the last game hopefully very, very convincingly,” stressed Castillo.
“Mababa namin ang errors, mataas namin ang tactics, we want them to be more intelligent kumaga eh organized pagdating sa paglalaro, ‘yun ang gusto kong gawin,” he added.
Czarina Carandang, who led FEU in the semifinals against Adamson University, finished with 17 points, while Villereal added 15 and Toni Rose Basas contributed 10.
Pons and Kyla Atienza missed the series opener as they prepare for a crucial match against fellow unbeaten University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 80 beach volleyball tournament on Thursday.