The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Lady Maroons bowed out of the Final Four race against the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs, 21-25, 24-26, 25-17, 25-23, 15-17, today, April 14, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Team Captain Tots Carlos and Co-captain Ayel Estrañero led the Maroons with 18 and 11 points respectively. Princess Robles and Audrey Paran were the top scorers of NU with 20 and 15 markers individually.
Maristela Layug and Ayel Estrañero started the first set with a block that slowed down NU’s offense up until the first technical timeout (TTO) at 8-6.
Not long after, the Diliman-based squad’s offense stunted due to NU’s quick blows, lagging at 14-16.
UP made use of Estrañero’s dump shots and Marian Buitre’s aces to stop the bleeding, but it was not enough as NU’s Ivy Lacsina ended the set, 21-25.
Come second canto, UP’s reception weakened as Bulldog Rookie Princess Robles and senior Audrey Paran cooked up 6-8 against UP.
Layug, Isa Molde, and Tots Carlos led their teammates to the second TTO with clever plays, 16-13.
It was a neck-and-neck race to the third set as UP and NU exchanged attacks, but the latter made it out alive at 24-26.
Things started to look up for the Iska athletes at the third frame with an improved court coverage. Buitre and Carlos rattled the Bulldogs with their offense to take the Maroons to 8-7.
An 8-5 run followed as NU’s mishaps and UP’s kills pushed the Maroons further to 16-12.
UP finished the set at 25-17, courtesy of NU’s service error.
It was a cat and mouse game for both teams in the fourth set as they experienced 14 deadlocks, the highest being 17-all.
Even though NU banked on UP’s shortcomings to put them up 7-8, their adversary fought back with counter-attacks that scrambled the Bulldogs, 16-15.
UP pulled away at 25-23 with Carlos’ wipe.
Hoping to place in the Final Four, the fifth set was do-or-die for the Lady Maroons.
Cheering in excitement, the UP faithful watched as their team gathered 8-7 a la Carlos, Estrañero, and Molde.
With the pressure taking its toll on the Maroons, UP lacked the composure to close out the set. Errors riddled them, giving NU the win at 15-17.
Despite not making the Final Four this season after his team’s PVL and PSL victories, Coach Godfrey Okumu still wants to have a special send-off for the Lady Maroons.
“We wanted to give them a good celebration by playing in the Final Four, but luck was not on our side today. The only thing I can say is we talked about it and we want to give them a good send-off by winning the last remaining game. Because this is for them,” Okumu said.
Looking to end their season on a high note, the UP Fighting Lady Maroons will face the Adamson University (AdU) Lady Soaring Falcons on April 27 at the Filoil Flying V Centre. TNP
Photo by Luisa Morales