THE National University Lady Bulldogs battled back from a set down and fought off two match points to deny the Ateneo Lady Eagles a famous upset in Game One of the Shakey's V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference Finals on Monday night.
Jaja Santiago and Aiko Urdas teamed up in the final set to lead a great Lady Bulldogs fightback as they moved on the verge of wrapping up the best-of-three finals after a thrilling 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 25-18, 18-16 victory.
Santiago brought the Lady Bulldogs back to life from a 1-2 deficit through three sets while Urdas delivered the coup de grace, scoring three of the team's last four points in a final set showdown that saw the Lady Bulldogs overcome deficits of 0-5, 1-6 and 3-8.
The Lady Bulldogs still trailed, 13-14 and 14-15, before Urdas took over to frustrate an Ateneo side that showed a lot of fight in its first big tournament without longtime star Alyssa Valdez.
“We just showed that we’re not intimidated by the Lady Eagles, unlike when they first beat us,” said NU assistant coach Edjet Mabbayad.
NU's comeback spoiled the long-awaited return of Ateneo ace Jo Maraguinot, who perked up a Lady Eagles side that took the second and third sets until the Lady Bulldogs rebounded to take a 16-7 lead in the fourth set.
Santiago finished with 31 points from 25 kills, five blocks and a service ace, while Urdas delivered 18 points, including the through the block attack that sealed the win for the Lady Bulldogs.
Jorelle Singh added 10 points for NU.
"Doon namin nakita ang attitude niya (Urdas) sa crucial point na 'yun na kahit match point at wala si Jaja sa harap at sila ang nandoon, pinanindigan nila. Ginawa nila ang part nila," said Mabbayad.
"Nakita namin ang willingness nila na manalo, nandoon sa kanila kanina," he added.
Ana Gopico had 18 points, while Michelle Morente and Bea De Leon finished with 14 markers each for the Lady Eagles.