La Salle stuns Ateneo with Game 1 comeback
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Evoking memories of their first-round encounter, the defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers again broke the hearts of rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles after rallying to win Game 1 of the UAAP Season 75 women's volleyball finals.
Down two sets, the Lady Spikers showed championship poise as they rallied to take the final three sets, 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22 and 15-6.
It was a déjà vu of their first-round clash, when the Lady Eagles also took a two-set lead only to see La Salle come back for the five-set victory.
Over 17,000 volleyball fans trooped to the Araneta Coliseum Saturday afternoon to watch the Finals rematch between Ateneo and La Salle.
"Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila, relax lang, kasi medyo madaming tao," said La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus.
"'Yung crowd ang nagpapalakas sa kalaban, kaya sabi ko, composed lang at maniwala sa sarili," he added.
Quick start for Lady Eagles
Much like their first round match, Ateneo got off to a quick start, with Fille Cainglet taking up the scoring cudgels as the Lady Eagles raced to a 25-20 victory.
In the second set, La Salle took a 9-6 lead but the Lady Eagles scored nine straight points, anchored on the excellent serving of team captain Dzi Gervacio.
The Lady Spikers never recovered from that run as Ateneo went on to take the set, 25-17.
"Noong first two sets, disorganized ang blocking namin," said De Jesus.
La Salle's Michele Gumabao said they were surprised in the first two sets because Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez, usually an open spiker, started as a quicker.
"Nu’ng third set, because of the advice of our coaches, we were able to adjust," she said.
La Salle comeback
Ateneo looked like they were on their way to a sweep when they took a 13-8 lead in Set 3 off a running hit by Gretchen Ho.
But La Salle reeled off seven straight points to take a 15-13 lead, and the set was a nip-and-tuck affair from that point.
Gervacio scored off a combination play to tie the set for the last time at 21-all, but she committed a service error that gave La Salle the lead for good.
Ateneo opened the fourth set with a 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back aces from Cainglet, and were able to maintain control after several errors were committed by the Lady Spikers.
But Gumabao, with help from Mika Reyes and Cyd Demecillo, stepped up to give the Lady Spikers a 17-14 lead.
Errors by the Lady Spikers would allow Ateneo to take a 20-19, and then a 22-21 lead, but the Lady Eagles committed a crucial error of their own that allowed La Salle to take the lead for good, 23-22.
With momentum on their side, the Lady Spikers raced to a 6-4 lead in the fifth and final set and never looked back.
"Nag-tiwala lang kami sa bawat isa," Gumabao answered when asked how they were able to rally from a two-set deficit.
"Alam namin na kami ang defending champions, kami ang back-to-back defending champions... We all worked as a team and we all worked individually to contribute and get the points," she added.
Gumabao finished with 15 points for the Lady Spikers, who won the game despite committing 48 errors.
Galang topscored for La Salle with 17 points, while Reyes proved unstoppable in the middle on her way to scoring 15 points. Team captain Abi Marano added 11 markers.
Adjustments for Game 2
Valdez, the league's leading scorer, finished with 17 points for the Lady Eagles while Cainglet added 14.
No other Atenean finished in double-figures, however.
After the game, Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb blamed the loss on their poor reception.
"Hindi na naka-receive eh. Importante maka-receive. Napabayaan. Kaka-error, misreceive, misreceive," Gorayeb lamented.
"Wala eh, talagang ganoon. We just have to accept what happened, and we have to learn from that mistake," he said.
Gorayeb noted that it was the second time this season that his players had taken a two-set lead against the defending champions only to fall short.
"Sana hindi naman mangyari sa susunod," he said.
But Gorayeb gave credit to the Lady Spikers, saying, "They have a bigger heart than us for now."
Game 2 of the Finals will be on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
"We will make another adjustment," said Gorayeb. "I have three days to make adjustments."