A National University side that continues to play without reinforcements avoided a monumental collapse against a game University of Santo Tomas as it hacked out a 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 15-10 victory in the Shakey’s V-League on Sunday at The Arena in San Juan.
The defending champion Lady Bulldogs saw the Tigresses threaten to force a decider after trailing by two sets, tightening their screws in the fifth set to pull off the heard-earned victory despite having yet to fill their two guest spots.
“Hindi pa namin kailangan mag-press ng alarm. Sa ngayon, kaya pa naman namin,” said Lady Bulldogs coach Ariel dela Cruz, who bared Rubie de Leon could is an option. The veteran setter helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to their maiden V-League title last season.
“Gusto ko rin lumaban muna yung mga regulars.”
Mina Aganon and Dindin Santiago shone brightest for the Lady Bulldogs, delivering the key blows down the stretch as the Sampaloc-based squad remained unbeaten after two starts to take the solo lead in Group B.
NU also spoiled the debut of the Tigresses and rookie sensation EJ Laure, one of their two guest players, who fired a game-high 23 points.
Aganon scattered 17 points, including match point, while Santiago added 11 markers, including two straight that gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead for good in the fifth set for NU, which also had three other in double-figure scorers in Jaja Santiago (14), Aiko Urdas (11), and Myla Pablo (11).
The 16-year-old Laure, daughter of PBA player Eddie Laure, conspired with Ria Meneses, and Pamela Lastimosa, in a UST rally starting in the third set, where they started with seven unanswered points.
The Lady Bullodgs could’ve finished the game early as they led, 21-18, in the fourth set, but the Tigresses refused to fold to forge the fifth set.