ST. Benilde bounced back from a slow start and turned back Perpetual Help, 17-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-17, on Monday to set in motion its title-retention bid in the 92nd NCAA women's volleyball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan City.
Ranya Musa scored 15 and last year's Finals MVP Jeanette Panaga added 14 points to power the Lady Blazers to the early share of lead.
"We were a little sluggish at first but I told them to just stay aggressive," said St. Benilde coach Macky Carino.
Lyceum of the Philippines earlier edged Letran, 21-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-22, 15-10, and Jose Rizal nipped Mapua, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 23-25, 15-8, to grab a piece of the lead.
Cherylyn Jhane Sindayen paced the Lady Pirates with 24 points, Czarina Pauline Orros scored 14, while La Rainne Fabay and Christine Miralles had 11 points each.
Maria Shola May Alvarez shone the brightest for the Lady Bombers with 17 points including four service aces.
The Altas, coming off a solid second place effort in the Uni Games last month in Dumaguete City, appearead headed to pulling the rug from under the Lady Blazers when they dominated the opening set.
Perpetual Help turned a 3-8 deficit in the second set to a 13-8 lead after stringing together 10 straight points including a few service aces by Jowie Albert Versoza.
But St. Benilde turned it around while Perpetual Help fell into a maze errors.