Photo by Summer Padilla
Text by Nica Rhiana Hanopol
In a heart-stopping match, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Lady Maroons silenced the blue-clad crowd after sweeping the higher-seeded Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Lady Eagles in the final stretch of UAAP Season 80 at the Mall of Asia Arena, 28-26, 25-23, 26-24, Saturday.
Armed with sharp services and sturdy blocks, the Lady Maroons gave the Lady Eagles a taste of their own medicine, tying the Battle of Katipunan this season.
“Sinasabi na lang namin na no pressure, laro na lang. Kita naman sa laro na sobrang nag-eenjoy kami every point,” said UP captain Tots Carlos, who amassed 22 points off of 18 spikes, three service aces, a kill block, and eight excellent digs.
The Lady Maroons are out of contention as the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs defeated the University of the East (UE) Lady Warriors in a three-set match today.
Relying on the sharp attacks of Isa Molde and Carlos, the UP squad led a tough first set.
The State U was going head-to-head against Ateneo open hitter Kat Tolentino’s towering spikes, 5-3, 7-5, 9-6, 11-8, and 13-10. But middle blockers Maris Layug and Jessma Ramos played equally aggressive at the net to match the Ateneo wall.
Meanwhile, setter Rose Cailing distributes the ball smoothly to her spikers, 14-10, but does not leave her scoreboard empty after orchestrating her one-two play against the Lady Eagles.
Throughout the set, both squads tried to outwit each other, with Ateneo playing catch up as Tolentino produced the points for her team.
She also had the aid of captain Maddie Madayag’s running hits and Jho Maraguinot’s crosscourt assault.
Late in the set, UP continued to enjoy a comfortable cushion with all-around-player Ayel Estranero bringing the team in the 20-point mark, with her smart plays and loaded serves.
But Ateneo displayed their heartstrong mantra as Maraguinot string more points, to add to her team’s 4-2 run to inch closer to the Maroons, 22-20.
Carlos responds with her fierce down-the-line spikes, but it proved to be UP’s errors that helped Ateneo tie the match in 24 points apiece.
Ateneo returns the favor with a crucial spiking error, 28-26, despite UP’s several misqueues toward the end of the set.
The Diliman Wall
Both teams exchanged errors at the start of the second set, but UP stabbed Ateneo’s defense with Carlos’ precise hit, giving them the first lead.
It was a see-saw battle as the Katipunan squads rally point-by-point, in total of six deadlocks in the set. But UP soon gave Ateneo the advantage, 15-19, as they committed consecutive errors at the net.
Unfazed by 11 errors in the match, the UP squad bounced back quickly in the set, blocking the powerful attacks of Madayag and Maraguinot.
Molde completed UP’s come-from-behind rally with two service aces in a row to tie the game, 21-21.
But Madayag took advantage of another error on the UP side, quickly scoring in the middle to inch her team closer to a set win and, 23-21.
Grappling for a set win, Ateneo setter Deanna Wong attempted a one-two play, but Estranero swipes and draws the match again at 23-23.
UP captain Carlos successfully swings back the momentum to her team with a critical jump serve ace, but it was the Diliman wall courtesy of Layug that ended the set, 25-23.
The third set suffered the same fate as the second, with both teams rallying for each point and trading errors, to keep a tight score.
Ateneo pulled away in the middle of the set, 14-19, with Tolentino and de Leon soaring for the Eagles, while a Carlos’ service error allowed them to step in 20.
UP looked calm in spite of 13 errors and continued to play their game until they recovered through off-the-block hits by Molde and Carlos, and an ace by rookie Abbie Lim, enough to close the match at 22-23.
But Ateneo was not about to let State U steal the match just yet, as Maraguinot makes up a forceful attack from a poor service-receive, 24-24.
Carlos saved the second set point with her hard and fast spike, with the help of Ramos’ heavy serve and Layug manning the net, 25-24.
“Hindi naman pwede na papatalo lang kami. ‘Di sila [Ateneo] ‘yung mabilis mag-give up, sila yung team na sobrang lakas ng loob, confident,” Carlos said.
The UP Lady Fighting Maroons played a comeback game after last winning against the Ateneo squad in a four-set match in Season 78, where they also held a spot in the final four.
They garnered a total of 11 block points against the best blocking team, who attained only eight in the entire match.
“Every time na nakakablock ako, ‘yun yung para sa nangyari sa akin nung first round,” said Ramos, who suffered a right foot sprain in their first round meeting against Ateneo.
Despite losing their final four chances, the UP squad still aims to finish strong in the season, evidently seen in their 21 excellent sets and seven service aces against Ateneo’s 18 and one.
“I say we finish strong. That’s what we ought to do, that’s what we came to do, and that’s what we did,” said Coach Okumu, who also thanked the fans for never giving up on the team.
UP hopes to bring the same mindset in their last game for the season against UE, vying for back-to-back-to-back straight set victories.