Lady Spikers yield to NU as stepladder semis goes to a rubber match

The DLSU Lady Spikers made their runs. In the first set, they trimmed a 22-14 lead in half. They scored back-to-back points to cut a 18-14 deficit to just two in the second set. They turned a 10-8 disadvantage into a 13-11 edge in the third set, their biggest lead in the match. They forced NU Lady Bulldogs head coach Roger Gorayeb to sue for time a couple of times.

But every time the Lady Bulldogs emerged from the huddle, they always seemed to do the right thing, and finished each of the sets in resounding fashion.

And there were two things that those runs by the Lady Spikers had in common. They came late in the sets, and they didn’t last very long.

Using a balanced attack and pouncing on a DLSU side that couldn’t shake off the rust from a two-week break, the NU Lady Bulldogs pulled off a stunning 25-20, 25-20, 25-19 win against the Lady Spikers earlier today at the Smart- Araneta Coliseum. The loss by the Lady Spikers negates their twice-to-beat advantage against the Lady Bulldogs and stretches their Stepladder Semifinals series to a do-or-die game this Saturday, March 7.

After knotting the count at 10-all in the third set on an attack by Cyd Demecillo, the Lady Spikers took a brief 13-11 advantage after an error by Lady Bulldog Jaja Santiago, forcing Gorayeb to call a time-out. NU then scored the next three points to retake the lead. An attack by Desiree Cheng later shoved the Lady Spikers ahead, 16-15, heading into the second technical timeout, but the Lady Bulldogs scored three straight points once more to seize control, 18-16. Myla Pablo then teamed up with Santiago late in the set to pad their lead and finally pull off the stunning straight sets win.

The second set began with both teams exchanging points, until the Lady Bulldogs rattled off three quick points to grab a 15-12 lead. Demecillo scored for La Salle to bring them to within two, but NU team team captain Desiree Dadang responded with two quick points to restore order to the NU lead. La Salle got as close to 20-22 on an attack by rookie Eli Soyud, but an attack by Santiago and a block by rookie Jorelle Singh allowed the Lady Bulldogs to pocket the first set.

La Salle started the game with little energy, as the Lady Bulldogs took a quick 12-8 lead in the first set after a block by Dadang on sophomore Mary Joy Baron. Baron and Galang scored points for the Lady Spikers, but Pablo and Santiago scored right back for NU to maintain their advantage. A block by Mika Reyes allowed the Lady Spikers to draw to within four, 18-22, but Pablo and Santiago repeatedly found the gaps in the La Salle defense to help the Lady Bulldogs wrap up the first set, 25-20, setting the stage for the upset win.

Galang led all scorers with 14 points for the Lady Spikers, while Demecillo and Reyes added 10 and eight, respectively. The rest of the team, however, only scored 13 markers. The team, which played its first game since losing their last game in the elimination round against the Ateneo Lady Eagles last February 18,  also coughed up 19 errors compared to only 14 by the Lady Bulldogs. La Salle, one of the best blocking teams in the league, only managed nine against NU.

Pablo and Santiago led the Lady Bulldogs with 13 points apiece, while Singh added 11. Dadang also finished with eight, five of them being emphatic blocks for NU which held a 40-32 attacks advantage against the Lady Spikers.

The Battle for Survival: The Lady Spikers will look to regroup and try to enter the UAAP Finals for the seventh consecutive time when they face-off against the Lady Bulldogs this Saturday, March 7, 4pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena.