UNIVERSITY of the Philippines is Philippine Superliga’s inaugural Collegiate Grand Slam champion, defeating University of Santo Tomas, 25-21, 16-25, 25-23, 25-19, in the final on Thursday at the Arena in San Juan.
The Lady Maroons got a boost in their preparations for the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament after sweeping the collegiate titles PSL and in the rival Premier Volleyball League.
“We fought because that’s out motto of the day, ‘fight’. We fight to the end and it worked,” UP head coach Godfrey Okumu said. “We fought until the end. Even if when we were down we just kept on reminding ourselves that we have to fight. That’s what we came here to do today.”
Two straight errors from rookies Ysa Jimenez and Mafe Galanza put the Lady Maroons at match point, 24-18, before Milena Alessandrini saved another point but Marist Layug delivered the championship-clinching kill for UP.
Team captain Tots Carlos, who missed their PVL title run, completed her unfinished business for UP as she led the team to a PSL title run, this time, unloading 17 points built on 15 kills, a block and a service ace to torch the erstwhile-unbeaten UST in an hour and 50-minute encounter.
Rookie Nicole Magsarile chipped in 11 hits, while Layug added 10 markers. Freshman libero Mirgie Bautista protected the floor with 19 digs and nine excellent receptions, while setter Ayel Estrañero dished out 17 excellent sets on top of four aces.
Justine Dorog was also instrumental with six markers and 15 digs before suffering a right shoulder injury from providing the set-clinching hit in the third set and failed to return to action in the fourth set.
The Lady Maroons also won a cash prize from the league to fund their choice of overseas training early next year for their UAAP Season 81 preparation.
Okumu was impressed on how his wards fought hard against a team that beat them in the eliminations.
“We were down and it was a hard work to pick ourselves up but I’m happy that we were able to pick ourselves up,” the Kenyan coach said.
UP needed to overcome a 2-8 deficit in the fourth set before unloading a fiert 13-2 run capped by Carlos’s service ace for a 15-10 lead. But after committing several errors, the Tigresses trimmed it down to two, 16-14, only for the Lady Maroons to recover again and build a 21-15 cushion and never looked back to seal the inaugural Collegiate Grand Slam title.
Eya Laure and Alessandrini had 14 and 13 points, respectively, for UST as one loss costed its championship hopes settling for a silver medal and put its five-game elimination sweep into waste.
Tigress skipper Tin Francisco also suffered an injury from a bad landing that dislocated her right patellar in the fourth set trying to hit the ball as UST trailed 9-8 and failed to return in action.