Text and photo by Luisa Morales
The Lady Maroons have bounced back in spectacular fashion.
Keeping their final four hopes alive, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Lady Maroons overpowered the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs in straight sets, 25-18, 25-22, 25-20 at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Relying on loaded serves and powerful attacks, State U fought their way to the team’s first straight-set win of the season.
UP dedicated the emphatic win to the late Lourdes Guerrero, former president and founder of the UP Women’s Volleyball Team Alumni Association, playing the match with black armbands on their sleeves.
Guerrero suited up for the Lady Maroons back in 1988 and served as the president of the alumni association until 2016.
UP catches groove early
It was a back and forth affair at the start of the match with both squads exchanging runs early in the set.
NU had the upper hand in the beginning, leading 7-4 but a 7-point flurry from the Maroon offense courtesy go-to hitters Tots Carlos and Isa Molde quickly placed them at an advantage, 11-7.
Despite efforts from the Lady Bulldogs to trim the lead, UP held on to draw first blood, 25-18.
Playing catch up
Unfazed by UP’s one-set lead, the Lady Bulldogs were quick to bite in the second. The Sampaloc-squad doubled up on State U early, 10-5.
But the Lady Maroons took advantage of NU’s errors, and the same time orchestrated attacks of their own to trim the lead to two by the second technical timeout, 14-16.
UP eventually caught up to put the teams at deadlock, 19-all.
Launching attacks from all parts of the court, UP rallied to take the set with an Ayel Estranero hit, 25-22.
State U finds endgame
Carrying the momentum from a 2-0 lead, it was all State U in the third and final set. The Diliman squad held a comfortable cushion, 13-7.
The Lady Bulldogs tried to get back and trailed only by three late in the match, 18-21 but UP had it all under control.
State U ended the match with a Jessma Ramos hit, 25-20.
It was a team effort for the Diliman squad, skipper Tots Carlos led the squad with 18 points while Molde chipped in 10.
Lady Maroon Ayel Estranero attributed the emphatic win to proper execution on the court. “We were able to apply very well what we actually did in training like all the instructions of coach and all his reminders were really put into play” she said.
For Carlos, the sweep provided a boost to the team’s morale after all their struggles this season.
“Syempre, sobrang saya… sobrang lakas ng team nila, lalo na si Jaja (Santiago) [pero] naapply namin yung ginawa namin sa training” Carlos said.
Santiago led the Lady Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points.
UP improves to a 4-8 standing. But even with the win, the team’s final four hopes are still hanging on a string.
Lady Maroon head coach Godfrey Okumu says his team is simply focusing on the remaining games ahead, regardless of the F4 results.
“As I said before, we want to finish the season strong” he said.
Okumu and his team hope to build on this win when they go against higher-seeded Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles on Saturday, April 7.