The Lady Spikers relied on their championship experience to sweep an over a tenacious National University squad 25-18 25-23 25-18 today as they enter the UAAP finals for the 5th straight year and remain on track for a three-peat title.
The win also assures De La Salle University its first UAAP General Championship since entering the league in 1986, ending UST’s 14-year reign.
MVP candidate Ara Galang led the Lady Spikers with 15 points, most of which came from spikes while Mika Reyes followed with 14 markers. Team captain Abi Maraño and veteran Michelle Gumabao registered 11 and 10 points respectively to complete La Salle’s double digit performers. Despite having playing less minutes as compared to last season, former Rookie of the Year Mika Esperanza proved her worth with 32 excellent sets to anchor La Salle’s relentless attacks.
Dindin Santiago led NU with a game high 19 points, 16 of which coming from spikes while the remaining 3 came from blocks. The Lady Spikers’ defense limited the scoring production of their other stalwarts, namely Myla Pablo and Aiko Urdas to just 2 and 7 points respectively.
Neither team was able to pull away early in the first set, with both squads committing unforced errors to keep each other at bay. Things started to pick up for the Lady Spikers in the halfway mark as they relied on their blocking prowess to lead by as much as 7 points.
The Lady Bulldogs started the next set strong and lead by as much as 4 points. Unfazed, the La Salle was able to catch up down the stretch. An NU reception error placed La Salle at set point before Esperanza scored a block to cap off a come-from-behind set win.
It was the same scenario in the 3rd and final set as NU put up a strong fight at the beginning before breaking into pieces towards the end. A service error from NU and an ace by Michele Gumabao finally sealed the deal for the back-to-back champions.Overall, experience was La Salle’s edge over the upstart Lady Bulldogs who are in Final 4 for the very first time since the format was introduced.
For the second straight year, the Lady Spikers will go up against Ateneo in the best-of-three championship series starting March 2. The Lady Eagles swept Adamson in their semis duel to set up a finals rematch.