Gutsy UP falls short in upset bid vs NU

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons went all out during their Wednesday matchup against the defending champions National University (NU) Bulldogs but ultimately came shorthanded, absorbing a tough five-set loss in the men’s division and a four-set defeat in the women’s side.

Down, but with a fight

The UP Men’s Volleyball Team (MVT) pushed the NU Bulldogs to their limit before succumbing in a grueling five-setter, 16-25, 25-21, 24-26, 25-23, 12-15.

Rookie standout Angelo Lagando notched a career-high 28 points off 25 attacks and three blocks, while team captain Louis Gamban added 12 points.

NU displayed lethal offense courtesy of playmaker Joshua Retamar to secure a nine-point cushion by the end of the opening frame, 16-25. 

However, UP regrouped in the next set, overcoming a two-point deficit to tie the match at 18-all. Gamban would seal the 25-21 set win with a powerful hit through a triple block.

The Bulldogs quickly rebounded from their second-set meltdown as Nico Almendras shut down the Maroons in an intense 24-all deadlock with back-to-back kills. 

But UP continued to show spirit, tightening their net defense against Almendras and Kennry Malinis in the fourth salvo all while capitalizing on Lagando’s high efficiency to eventually force a decider.

Crucial errors plagued both teams in the fifth set, which featured the 25th deadlock of the match at 9-all. Lagando broke the tie with a crosscourt kill, but that proved to be it for UP as NU cruised to victory with a 5-0 run capped by a Malinis runner. 

The UP MVT will try to halt its four-game losing streak as they square off against the UST Tiger Spikers on Saturday, Mar. 11, at the Philsports Arena.

Daniel Nicolas goes for an off-speed attack against NU’s three-man block.  
Photo by UAAP Season 85 Media Bureau

Too strong an opponent

Meanwhile, the UP Women’s Volleyball Team (UP WVT) snatched the opening set from the NU Lady Bulldogs but eventually collapsed in the following frames, 25-18, 17-25, 11-25, 11-25. 

Service reception proved to be the deciding factor in the loss, with the Lady Bulldogs tallying 16 aces compared to the Lady Maroons’ three.

State U actually started strong, thanks to setter Mai Sotomil who orchestrated several combination plays that confused the NU defense, giving the team a six-point lead, 20-14.

A couple of unforced errors on the UP side allowed the Lady Bulldogs to creep closer, but Alyssa Bertolano scored three consecutive points before Stephanie Bustrillo put up the finishing touch with a crosscourt attack.

It was all downhill from there for the maroon-and-white as NU eventually found its rhythm in the second set, paced by rookie standout Vangie Alunsug who fired a down-the-line hit for a 14-8 advantage.

UP tried to claw its way back into the game, with team skipper Jewel Encarnacion scoring an ace and Bustrillo getting lucky off a defensive stop at 19-16.

But NU’s Sheena Toring negated their efforts with a quick hit from the middle and back-to-back aces. Sotomil saved one set point via a one-two play before committing a service error that leveled the match at one set all.

The Lady Maroons trailed early in the third frame, 16-6, as reception woes continued to trouble their offense. Taking advantage of UP’s rocky floor defense, the Lady Bulldogs loaded their service in the tail end of the set to eventually secure a 14-point blowout.

State U showed signs of life in the fourth salvo, even leading the first technical timeout off an emphatic block by Ethan Arce. 

However, the Lady Bulldogs quickly responded with an impressive 12-1 run, courtesy of Toring who produced three impact points from the service line.

Bench player Abi Goc tried to provide some spark for UP as she scored an off-the-block hit,  but Alinsug drove the final nail in the coffin with yet another service ace. 

Bustrillo was the lone Lady Maroon to breach double-digit scoring with 13 points all on attacks. Bertolano chipped in nine points laced with 12 excellent receptions.

On the flip side, Toring powered NU to its bounce-back victory with 14 markers, including six aces.

The UP WVT will try to rebound against the UST Golden Tigresses on Saturday, Mar. 11, at the Philsports Arena.