Lady Spikers enter Final 4 with twice-to-beat disadvantage. No kidding

What an interesting week it has been for the defending champion DLSU Lady Spikers. A win last week against the UE Lady Warriors stretched La Salle’s winning streak to five and gave the team confidence and momentum to try to secure the twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four against the FEU Lady Tamaraws last Sunday.

Alas, after leading two sets-to-one and even reaching match-point at the fourth set, La Salle folded in the fifth and deciding frame, necessitating today’s playoff game against the UST Golden Tigresses for the right to be the number two seed.

Save for an anemic and error-prone first set, the Lady Spikers fought to the bitter end but couldn’t overcome the Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure-led Golden Tigress, 14-25, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25 at the Filoil Flying V Center.

DLSU couldn’t get their rhythm in the first set, allowing UST to jump to leads of 3-8 and 11-16. Out-attacked by 9-12 and committing more errors 9-2, La Salle fell to a deep 11-21 hole before a kill from Tin Tiamzon temporarily stopped the bleeding. The Tigresses went on to score four of the last six points of the set as Rondina, Laure, and even their setter Alina Bicar handed La Salle its worst set loss in Season 81.

Despite finding themselves once again in a deep hole, 8-16, by the second technical timeout, the Lady Spikers were able to claw their way back one point at a time in the second frame. A kill from Aduke Ogunsanya followed by a UST attacking error trimmed the Tigress’ lead to just a single point, 17-18.

Back-to-back La Salle errors and the inability of the DLSU defense to stop Rondina once again gave UST the set point at 18-24. A 5-0 run from the Green and White made the end of the second set interesting but at 23-24, UST simply wanted the point and the set more as Laure delivered with an off-speed hit.

DLSU was off to a quick start in the third frame; determined to at least win a set, before thinking of extending the game to five sets. A block from rookie Jolina dela Cruz made it 6-1 in favor of La Salle but the Tigress wound up with the lead at the first technical timeout, 7-8, after a service ace from Kecelyn Galdones.

Neither team led by more the three points as one side was on a mission to end the game early while coach Ramil de Jesus and his wards were determined to extend the game. Tied 23-all after a hit from Lourdes Clemente, DLSU got to set point after a kill from Ogunsanya and eventually got the set after an attacking error from UST’s Laure.

As fatigue set in and pressure mounted for the La Salle six, the closest that the Lady Spikers could get to UST was during the 13-15 mark after team captain Desiree Cheng scored on a hit. Rondina shook off cramps to score six of her team’s last 10 points while Laure finished a long rally and the game with a hit from the left flank.

DLSU and UST formally start their Final Four match-up on May 5, 4PM at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Golden Tigress hold a twice-to-beat advantage.

Note: La Salle’s previous worst set loss was 16-25 against the UP Lady Maroons in their second round match-up at the Ynares Antipolo. This is also the first time in the past 11 seasons that DLSU will enter the Final Four as the lower seed.

DLSU (1) – dela Cruz 12, Cheng 9, Luna 9, Clemente 7, Ogunsanya 7, Cobb 3, Tiamzon 3, Alba 0, Ipac 0, Saga (L)

UST (3) – Rondina 29, Laure 17, Jimenez 8, Viray 7, Galdones 4, Bicar 3, Pacres 0, Roldan 0, Delerio (L), Rivera (L)