NATIONAL University eliminated University of the Philippines, giving University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University free rides to the Final Four race in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Princess Robles and Audrey Paran shone as the Lady Bulldogs carved out a 25-21, 26-24, 17-25, 23-25, 17-15 victory over the Lady Maroons.
Robles came through with 20 points, 17 digs and nine receptions while Audrey Paran added 15 points, including the match-clinching kill that UP to early vacation.
NU’s victory – only the fourth in 13 contests – completed the Final Four cast with three matchdays remaining before the end of the double-round eliminations.
The Tigresses are back in the Final Four after missing the bus last season while the Lady Tamaraws clinched their fifth straight semis appearance, all thanks to the Lady Bulldogs’ gutsy showing.
“Ang sa amin lang talaga, purely i-end namin ang last two games namin na may magandang performance, yung panalo talaga, hindi para i-oust ang UP. Never it crossed our minds na maging ganoon. Basta maglaro lang kami at i-try na manalo,” said NU mentor Norman Miguel.
Not just contented of making it to the Final Four, UST moved half-a-game behind De La Salle in the race for the second twice-to-beat incentive with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-23 victory over FEU.
Sisi Rondina had 21 points, 17 digs and 12 receptions and Eya Laure scored off a ball touch – her 17th point – that turned out to be match winner, as the Tigresses rose at 9-4, while sending the Lady Tamaraws to their fifth loss in 13 games in fourth spot.
For the Lady Maroons, who won two off-season championships and even defeated the Lady Spikers twice in the elims, they will reflect what went wrong in the campaign that they supposed to be one of the favorites after stumbling to their third consecutive loss – and 6-7 overall – with one game left to play.
In the men’s division, rookie Nico Almendras and Bryan Bagunas each had 15 hits as defending champion NU swept UST, 25-20, 25-21, 25-9, for its 11th straight win and claim the first twice-to-beat berth in the Final Four, while FEU, with Peter Quiel leading the way with 12 points, moved closer in bagging the other twice-to-beat slot with a 25-20, 25-14, 19-25, 25-9 win over UP.
The Lady Maroons stormed back from a two-set hole to force a decider and were up, 15-14, when the Lady Bulldogs turned to Robles and Paran to prevail in the two-hour, 25-minute match, that the Tigresses and the Lady Tamaraws’ gallery cheered for them.
“Hindi talaga madali ang game. Although nakuha namin ang first two sets, akala namin madali siya. Siyempre, hindi. Lalaban at lalaban ang UP,” said Miguel.
“Sa amin naman, with this result, masaya ako at may lumabas na ulit na character sa team namin. Yung team namin, actually angat-baba, angat-baba. Ang usapan na lang namin eh i-protect yung character ng team yung ipinapakita namin this season,” he added.
Tots Carlos finished with 18 hits while setter Ayel Estrañero had three blocks and three service aces for an 11-point effort to go with 24 excellent sets for the Lady Maroons.