The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Fighting Maroons served up the first loss of the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Archers in an epic five-setter, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 15-12, in the first round of the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Tournament, March 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. 

“It’s not over until we finish the championship… There’s more to offer for my team. It was a game of minds and courage and aggressiveness,” said UP head coach Godfrey Okumu, lauding La Salle’s stalwart services and blocks. 

The Maroons, however, took command in the deciding frame led by the duo, Isa Molde, who tallied 20 points and Tots Carlos, dispatching a triple-double 19 attacks, 17 excellent digs, and 18 excellent receptions. 

Meanwhile, UP’s unsung hero is playmaker Ayel Estrañero, finishing with 38 excellent sets compared to only 25 of Michelle Cobb despite missing their last match against the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) due to a food poisoning incident.

“It was a tough fight. As in kitang kita naman na lumaban din sila, but I guess we really wanted to win,” said Estrañero.

“We felt like binibigay na sa’min pero kailangan na lang talaga naming akuin yung laro,” she added.

A point is a point

Entering the last set, UP looked to sway the momentum on their side with a 4-1 run courtesy of Molde and Carlos as well as Aie Gannaban’s back-to-back quick hits. 

It was toe-to-toe as May Luna and rookie Jolina Dela Cruz, who scored a career-high 19 points, warm up for combination plays, tying the game for a total of five times. 

Both teams exchanged errors but La Salle’s Luna miscalculated a hit, 14-12, to bring UP at match point.

Justine Dorog, who racked up eight points, found an open spot in zone 4 to claim the win. 

“Hindi ko naman inexpect na ibibigay sa’kin ni Isa yung bola. Tapos nakita ko kasi yung libero nila na pumasok, so pinush ko na lang instead of paluin,” said Dorog.

A point is a point naman.”

Slowly but surely 

The State U struggled in the first set as La Salle overwhelmed the service aces at 7-to-1 and 13-to-10 attacks. 

“It was a good thing that we lost the first set so that we can talk about why we lost,” said Coach Okumu. 

With some help from the crowd, UP finally established their defensive rhythm courtesy of skipper Carlos and libero Rem Altomea, who jointly pulled off 39 excellent digs and 37 excellent receptions. 

UP’s middle hitter Maristela Layug also cast up some running hits and placement shots in 11 markers head to head with Aduke Ogunsaya’s 13 points. 

The Lady Fighting Maroons now share the top spot in the standings with the defending champions DLSU with a 3-1 record. 
But Coach Gody Okumu said that his players are still going to work extra hard, especially on their consistency and floor defense, as they face Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Lady Blue Eagles on March 10 at the Filoil Flying V Arena. TNP

Photo by Summer Padilla

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