By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers gave the death knell to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 campaign of the Adamson Lady Falcons after they defeated the latter in four sets, 25-21, 25-15, 22-25 and 25-18, in their key match on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Making a sprint early in the contest, the Lady Spikers completed the victory by nipping the attempted ascent of the Lady Falcons and giving a strong finish kick to sustain their winning form while officially eliminating Adamson from the playoff race.
It was actually a triple celebration for La Salle, which has now won seven straight matches, for the win also assured it of finishing number one in the standings and enjoying the twice-to-beat advantage that goes with it in the semifinals as well as exacting payback on the Lady Falcons, who dealt them a surprise four-set defeat in the first round.
La Salle got off to a blistering start as it capitalized on the early errors of Adamson.
The Lady Spikers raced to a 15-6 lead midway into the opening frame before the Lady Falcons got some wind after, narrowing the gap with a 7-0 run to come within two points, 15-13.
But the Taft-based Lady Spikers would regain their bearing, outscoring their opponents, 7-4, to create some distance anew, 22-17.
Adamson tried to make a last-ditch effort to salvage the frame, coming within two points thrice, the last one at 23-21, before La Salle closed things out and went one set up.
In the second set it was Adamson which would take early control, seizing an 8-6 advantage by the first technical timeout.
Errors once again stymied the flight of the Lady Falcons, resulting to a telling run by the Lady Spikers who turned their deficit to a 16-10 separation at the second technical break and never looked thereafter to make it 2-nil for the game.
Seeing their season slipping away, the Lady Falcons played with more sense of urgency in the third set with Jema Galanza, Eli Soyud and off the bench Chiara Permentilla making their presence felt.
They stood toe-to-toe with the Lady Spikers, barely being beaten by the first technical timeout, 8-7, before turning the tables on their opponents to go up 16-10 in the next break.
Adamson stretched its lead some more, 18-10, before the Lady Spikers went on an 8-1 run to come within a point, 19-18.
The Lady Falcons stayed focus to stave off any further challenge from La Salle the rest of the set to take the frame altogether and send the game to a fourth set.
The two teams battled it out nip-and-tuck to begin the fourth frame, fighting to a 16-15 count two-thirds into the stanza.
Banking on their collective experience and firepower, especially Kim Dianna Dy and May Luna, and capitalizing on the mistakes of Adamson, the Lady Spikers made a mad dash to the finish, taking a 23-18 lead and eventually wrapped up the match.
Dy led La Salle with 17 points, 13 coming off attacks, with Desiree Cheng and Majoy Baron adding 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Soyud had 17 points while Galanza finished with 12 for the Lady Falcons, who needed to sweep their remaining assignments to stay in the hunt for the Final Four.
“This win sets as well heading into the semifinals,” said La Salle coach Ramil De Jesus after their win.
With the defeat of Adamson, the idle National University Lady Bulldogs (7-6) gained direct entry into the Final Four, joining La Salle (11-3), Ateneo Lady Eagles (9-4) and Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws (8-4).
The Lady Spikers play their last game of the elimination round against Ateneo on Sunday, April 15, while Adamson completes its assignment against the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses on Saturday, April 14.