NATIONAL University managed to score points on even the toughest situations to pull off a shock 25-20, 25-20-25-19 victory over a surprisingly sloppy La Salle side on Wednesday and force a deciding match in the UAAP women’s volleyball stepladder playoffs at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Bulldogs hitters were on target when given clear shots above the net, but were also able to create solid shots from less than perfect sets to stun the twice-to-beat Lady Spikers.
Four players scored in double figures for third-seeded NU, which disposed of No. 4 Far Eastern University in the first phase of the stepladder playoffs and now gears up for the knockout match against second seed La Salle on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
The winner earns the right to face the Ateneo Lady Eagles, who claimed a place in the finals outright plus a thrice-to-beat advantage after scoring a 14-match sweep of the eliminations.
Jaja Santiago and Myla Pablo scored 13 points each for the Lady Bulldogs, delivering huge hits over a La Salle net defense that was surprisingly slow to react. And during instances when Ivy Perez wasn’t able to provide perfect sets, Santiago, Pablo and Jorelle Singh found ways to score on offspeed hits and smart pushes that sent the Lady Archers scrambling.
Singh finished with 11 points and Rizza Mandapat chipped in with 10 for NU, which needed only 77 minutes to stop La Salle.
Setter Kim Fajardo and the La Salle hitters also seemed disconnected, enabling Santiago and Lady Bulldogs skipper Desiree Dadang to cash in with crucial points on blocks. NU scored 11 block points, five by Dadang.
“Masaya ako kasi nanalo kami, oh, eh salamat,” said NU coach Roger Gorayeb after the team’s first win against La Salle since 2008.
“Pero La Salle has the liberty kasi to lose this game. Siyempre twice-to-beat sila and ako naman masaya naman na naipanalo namin itong first game. Pero hindi naman pwedeng mag-relax kasi marami pang dapat gagawin.
“Masaya na rin ako sa dalawang buwan ko eh nakukuha na ng mga bata ang gusto ko,” said the veteran mentor, who took over as NU head coach on January 7.
La Salle skipper Ara Galang scored 14 and Cyd Demecillo added 10.