Lady Spikers one win away from UAAP title after emphatic comeback win

De La Salle University survived a grueling five-set battle over National University to take Game 1 of the best-of-three finals, 18-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13, and move on the verge of the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball championship, Sunday in front of 10,995 fans at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Spikers go for their 12th title overall next Sunday at 2 p.m. still at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, while the Lady Bulldogs aim to force a winner-take-all Game 3.

“Masaya nakuha namin yung Game 1 kahit papaano pinaghirapan. Siguro talagang ginusto ng mga bata manalo since we’re down two sets to one, fourth set kinapitan hanggang fifth set,” said De La Salle assistant coach Noel Orcullo.

“Sabi nga namin, makuha lang yung fourth set kapitan natin yung fifth set. At least pinakita naman ng mga bata na gusto nilang manalo,” the lead deputy of Ramil de Jesus continued.

After Alyssa Solomon’s off-the-block kill that pulled NU within one in the decider, 12-13, Sheena Toring tried to block Thea Gagate’s attempt but landed on the foot of the latter, causing her to injure her left knee. Toring was then replaced by Chams Maaya.

In the ensuing play, Angel Canino came through with a combination play on the Lady Spikers’ third try before Mhicaela Belen kept the Lady Bulldogs alive with an off-the-block spike, 14-13.

Then the costliest of NU’s eight errors in the fifth frame happened as Joyme Cagande’s set for Maaya was too low, resulting in the latter’s attack not going over the net to allow De La Salle to escape with the win.

Ahead by just two in the fourth, Canino and Gagate went back-to-back to send the Lady Spikers to set point before Vange Alinsug got a point but Mhicaela Belen’s attack went wide to stretch the match to a fifth set.

Canino came alive late to lead De La Salle with 21 points to go with 14 excellent receptions, while Gagate chipped in 17 points including a match-best four blocks of their 16 total rejections.