By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE hot winning streak of the Ateneo Lady Eagles in Season 80 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) continued yesterday after they soared to their fifth straight win with a hard-earned five-set victory over the University of Santo (UST) Tomas Golden Tigresses.
Struggled to take full flight early in the match, the Lady Eagles relied on a strong finishing kick to survive UST in their battle of on-a-roll teams, 25-22, 20-25, 16-25, 25-17 and 15-9.
The two teams did not waste much time getting it on to start the contest.
UST took control early with Sisi Rondina leading the charge as they held an 8-6 advantage by the first technical timeout.
Ateneo though would eventually get its groove, overtaking UST midway into the frame to seize a 16-14 lead at the second technical break.
The Lady Eagles stretched their cushion to 20-16 and angled to pull away before the Tigresses made a 4-1 run after to come within a point, 21-20.
The Katipunan-based spikers sued for time thereafter to regroup, which proved to work as they went on to close out things with a 4-2 sprint to claim the set.
UST and Ateneo continued to go back and forth in the second set, but unlike in the opening frame the Tigresses would do a better job staying the course.
With contributions coming from different directions and keeping their errors to a minimum, they turned a close 16-15 count to a pull-away sprint to level the match at a set apiece.
The Tigresses sustained their collective strong form from the second set to the third.
They raced to a 16-11 edge to start the frame and never looked back en route to a dominant set win and a 2-1 lead for the match.
In the fourth set the teams were at each other’s faces, fighting to a tight 12-all score midway into it.
Ateneo, however, would go on a 4-2 blast after to reach the second technical timeout first, 16-14.
It extended its lead to 21-15 as skipper Maddie Madayag and Jhoana Maraguinot hit the zone on their way to tying the game at two sets apiece.
Got their footing anew, it was Ateneo’s turn to go on a fast start to begin the final set, capitalizing on every opportunity presented to it.
The Lady Eagles soared to an early 8-3 lead.
UST was not to bow down sans a fight though, going on a 6-4 run to come within three points, 12-9.
It was the closest it could get though as it did not score thereafter and Ateneo pushed its way to the win.
The win improved the Lady Eagles to 9-3 and fortified their spot in the Final Four while the Tigresses dropped to 4-8 and saw their playoff hopes put in further jeopardy.
Kat Tolentino led Ateneo with 21 points followed by Maraguinot with 19.
Madayag had 11 points while Jules Samonte and Bea De Leon each had seven points.
Rondina paced UST with 21 points with Tine Francisco and Milena Alessandrini finishing with 10 each.
“We’re happy with the win as our hard work paid off. As you all know we trained during the Holy Week and it was a great feeling to have it result in a win,” said Madayag after their win.
“Our goal is to stay in the top two and despite already assured of a spot in the semifinals we remain hungry and determined to prove ourselves,” she added.
Ateneo returns on April 7 versus the University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons while UST next plays on April 8 against league-leading and defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo