Photo and text Luisa Morales
Finally, the Fighting Lady Maroons had a breakthrough.
After a four-game skid, the University of the Philippines (UP) is back on the win column after closing the doors on Sisi Rondina and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in four sets, 31-33, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12 at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
Powered by stellar defense and heroics from Tots Carlos and Isa Molde, the Diliman-based squad notched their second win of the season.
It was a slow start for the Diliman squad. Costly errors from the Lady Maroons and high-flying attacks from Rondina had UP down in the first, 10-19.
UST looked ready to cruise in the first set but State U had other plans. With Carlos and Molde leading the charge, the Maroon offense suddenly caught on fire.
State U went on a blazing 14-5 run to tie the set at 24-all.
The set would go on and on with both teams trading attacks and errors until the squads remain deadlocked at 31-all.
But an attack from Dim Pacres and a service ace from Carla Sandoval would give UST the set, 33-31.
UP breaks the ice
The excitement did not die down after an intense opening set.
Both teams went back and forth in the second, neither squad pulling away. At the second technical timeout, UP had a three-point cushion, 16-13.
Crucial umpire calls kept the Tigresses close behind and would eventually trim State U’s lead to one, 24-23.
Careful not to let his team give up the set, UP head coach Godfrey Okumu called a timeout. During the huddle, Lady Maroon Ali Buitre channelled Paul Desiderio – shouting “Atin to” before the team went back to the match. True to their battlecry, Ayel Estranero would close the set with a powerful block to give the set to UP, 25-23.
UP’s back, shout it out
The Fighting Lady Maroons were back on their feet. Gaining confidence from the second set win, State U stepped up their game.
UST would play at pace with the Diliman-based squad at the start of the set, keeping the scores tied at 12-all. But the Tiger offense was about to be silenced.
Overall good floor defense and nifty attacks from UP would propel them to a 13-4 rally to run away with the set, 25-16.
UP was now a set away from breaking their slump.
By the fourth set, it was all UP.
With momentum on their side, the Fighting Lady Maroons pounded UST, shutting out the Tigresses with blocks and excellent saves.
UST was held to single-digits by the second technical timeout, 7-16.
UP continued to cruise through the set and eventually win the match with a Molde attack off the block, 25-12.
The Maroons seem to have found the answer to their woes.
Carrying more than half of UP’s 106 points, Carlos and Molde led the charge for the Maroons after scoring game-high points with 32 and 24, respectively.
Carlos reiterated the importance of finally breaking the losing streak in an interview after the game.
“Sobrang importante, sobrang bumaba kami eh… Nakakapagod matalo so kailangan namin idefend, kailangan namin lumaban,” she said.
Meanwhile, coach Okumu had a special shoutout for the Diliman community.
“The champions for UP [are] the fans. They’ve been with us, [even if] we’ve not been playing well… Thank you so much for all the fans out there,” he said after the game.
UP now improves to 2-4 and hopes to go on a win streak when they face the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs on Sunday, March 4.
Erratum: Ayel Estranero was the one to score at the end of the second to clinch the set, 25-23 and not Ali Buitre.