By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses sent the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs crashing on Sunday, getting the better of the latter in four sets, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21 and 25-9, in their UAAP Season 80 joust at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Went a set down early, the Tigresses showed the composure and determination needed as the game progressed, while stepping up their defense as well, to win back-to-back games and improve to 4-7 in the ongoing University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season while sending the Lady Bulldogs (6-5) to their fourth straight defeat.

The match got off to a competitive start with the two teams going back and forth.

UST created some distance late in the opening frame, 22-19, but it failed to make full use it and instead saw NU outscore it, 6-3, to lose its grip on the set altogether and go 0-1 down.

The second set got off to a similar refrain as the first with the Tigresses jumping to an early lead.

NU though went on galloping back to seize the lead by the first technical timeout, 8-6, then extending it to a 16-12 cushion midway into the frame.

UST opened the final third of the second set with an 8-2 run to tie the count at 20-all.

It continued to sprint back from there, taking a two-point lead, 22-20.

The Lady Bulldogs answered back with three quick points to reclaim the upper hand, 23-22, only for the Tigresses to retaliate with a 3-0 blast, punctuated by a service ace by Alina Bicar, to level the game at a set apiece.

Boosted by their gallant stand in the previous frame and with their net defense clicking, the Tigresses raced to a 6-1 lead to start the third set before settling for an 8-5 advantage by the first technical break.

Jaja Santiago and the rest of the Lady Bulldogs slowly chipped away on the lead of UST, coming to within one point, 12-11.

But the Tigresses continued to hold control, 16-13, by the second break.

They would build on it after, stretching their lead, 21-14, and never looking back the rest of the set to go up, 2-1.

Sensing it has NU on the ropes, UST pounded on its opponent at the get-go of the fourth frame with Sisi Rondina leading.

The Tigresses jumped to an 8-5 lead before rolling to a 16-6 separation halfway into the set.

It was a hole that proved to be too deep to get out from for the Lady Bulldogs as the Tigresses went for the closeout thereafter.

Rondina led the way for UST with 25 points, 22 off spikes, with Milena Alessandrini adding 19.

Caitlin Viray, meanwhile, finished with eight points while Bicar had seven.

NU, for its part, was paced by Santiago with 27 points with Aubrey Paran adding 11 points.

“With this win I guess we still are in the race for the Final Four. But more than the standings this is big for our confidence and self-respect which was somehow diminished during our rough start to the tournament,” said UST coach Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes in the postgame press conference.

Next for UST is a meeting with the Ateneo Lady Eagles on April 4 while NU takes on the University of the Philippines Lady Fighting Maroons also on said date.