UNIVERSITY of the Philippines battled back from a set down and a big deficit in the second frame to sink Philippine Navy, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23, in the Shakey's V-League Season 12-Reinforced Conference opener on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Maroons leaned on their solid blocking to offset the Lady Sailors' power game, coming through with an impressive 13-block performance, including four from skipper Katherine Bersola and three from Sheena Chopitea.
The Lady Sailors jumped the gun on their Diliman-based rivals but blew a 21-15 lead in the second as the Lady Maroons settled down with their reception and foiled a number of Navy attacks while hammering in kills of their own behind setter Jewel Lai.
The Lady Maroons produced 49 attack points, six less than the Lady Sailors but more than made up for the slack with their superb blocking while displaying grace under pressure in down-to-the-wire finishes in the last three sets of the one-hour and 47-minute match.
Isabel Molde fired 17 hits, Anne Tiamzon put in a 14-hit job while Marian Buitre added 10 points for UP, which also drew a combined 25-hit output from Bersola, Chopitea, Diana Carlos, Justine Dorog and Rose Cailing.
It was a sorry setback for the Lady Sailors, who got 15 hits from Hezzymie Acuna and 13 each from Pau Soriano and Lilet Mabbayad.
A PLDT side without top player Alyssa Valdez starts its bid against Philippine Coast Guard at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.
Army clashes with newcomer Kia Forte at 3 p.m., both matches to be aired live on GMA News TV Channel 11 for a big weekly treat by the league presented by PLDT Home Ultera.
Valdez will not be able to see action owing to her stint in the UAAP beach volley competition but coach Roger Gorayeb remains upbeat of their chances against the Lady Dolphins. PLDT has last year's Conference and Finals MVP Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones, top setter Rubie de Leon, Jem Ferrer, Jannine Marciano, Cha Soriano, Gata Pantone and Suzanne Roces.
The Lady Troopers, meanwhile, hope to showcase their vaunted offensive game anchored on Rachel Anne Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Abi Maraño with support to come from Mary Jean Balse, Tina Salak and Honey Royse Tubino.
But the Kia Forte side is out to spring a surprise right in its maiden appearance with Angelie Tabaquero, Wenneth Eulalio, Chie Saet and Fil-Am Alexa Micek leading the charge.