By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE FAR EASTERN University Lady Tamaraws lived to fight another day in Season 81 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines after they negated a twice-to-win disadvantage in the semifinals against the Ateneo Lady Eagles with a hard-earned five-sets win in the first game at the weekend.

But the Morayta-based team recognizes that it is not out of the woods yet and that it has to stay on top of its game, not only skills-wise, in the rubber match on Wednesday if it is to realize its goal of advancing to the finals of the women’s volleyball tournament for the second straight year.

Getting valuable contributions from different sources in the opener of their Final Four on May 4, the Lady Tamaraws outlasted the top-seeds Lady Eagles in five sets, 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25 and 15-8, to force a do-or-die on May 8 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City to determine who advance to the Big Dance.

FEU came out flat to begin the contest but dug deep in each of the next two sets to seize control of the match.

In the fourth frame, the Lady Tamaraws fell back and saw their opponents level the count.

But in the deciding set they would recalibrate, bucking a slow start to speed past the Lady Eagles the rest of the way and never looked back on their way to the victory.

The FEU veterans stepped up in their season-extending victory with graduating player Heather Guino-o leading the charge with 17 points and Nette Villareal adding 10.

Jerrili Malabanan had eight points while rookie France Ronquillo held her own with seven markers.

FEU coach George Pascua gave his players credit for stepping up to the challenge the way they did and responding to the call to play as if it is their last game.

“It’s a testament to the determination of the players to fight. This is a battle of character right now. We just told them to treat all of your games as a championship game,” said Mr. Pascua in the post-match interview.

To date, FEU has been 7-1 in five-setters this season.

Mr. Pascua reiterated that focus and will to win play a key part at this stage of the competition and the team which has them will give their cause a big boost.

“It’s no longer about the skills but more of the willingness to win. It’s already the semis and you have to go all out. All the weapons you have, you have to put it out there. Who has the heart and the mind to go for it will win it,” he said.

The FEU coach went on to say that the rubber match with Ateneo on Wednesday should be a tougher game and that they have to come in prepared as they can be.

“We still need to improve on things. Wednesday will be tougher game with a lot of pressure,” Mr. Pascua said.

The winner of the Ateneo-FEU semifinals will move on to the championship round against the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses, who dethroned the defending champions De La Salle Lady Spikers in their Final Four bracket on Sunday in five sets.

UST carried a twice-to-beat advantage but saw no need to use it.

The best-of-three finals series of the women’s volleyball tournament of UAAP Season 81 begins on May 11.