Despite starting lineup adjustments with Isa Molde returning and Justine Dorog suiting up as libero, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Lady Maroons still bowed down to University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses in straight sets, 21-25, 12-25, 24-26, in the UAAP season 81 volleyball tournament today, April 10, at FilOil Flying V Centre.

UP now sits on a 6-6 win-loss record and nears the brink of elimination after their two-game losing skid.

Marian Buitre powered the UP Lady Maroons with 16 markers from 15 attacks, while team captain Tots Carlos chipped in 10 points. Cherry Rondina led all scorers with 20 points to earn the POG honors.

The Lady Maroons started strong with Buitre and Carlos firing offensive kills to mount the lead at 11-5, just before the Tigresses made a 7-2 run to trim the lead to three points, 15-12.

The Tigresses sparked an 11-3 run to overcome their deficit and lead State U, 19-23. Isa Molde finds the corner to score her first point in the game, but the offensive prowess of the España squad wrapped the first set, 21-25.

State U fell to an early 3-10 deficit come second set after the black and gold team contained the momentum on their side.

The Tigresses continued to overpower the Lady Maroons to gain a comfortable lead, 9-21, but Buitre kept her squad alive by scoring back to back points, 11-21. This was not enough to stop the Tigresses to claim a two-set to nothing lead, 12-25.

The third frame saw a neck and neck battle with all players from both teams scoring from offense to defense, with the sixth deadlock at 20. Buitre shined in hopes of extending the match, delivering crucial points to help the Lady Maroons arrive at set point, 24-22.

Crucial errors called on UP helped UST tie the game at 24. An overreaching violation on UP put the Tigresses at set point, 24-25, before Eya Laure rejected Buitre at the net to close the match in favor of UST, 24-26.

On Crucial Calls

UP was a point away from snatching the third set from the Tigresses, but an untimely net violation was called on the Lady Maroons to tie at 24 all. After Buitre hit long, Jesma Ramos was called for an overreaching violation that put UST at front lead, 24-25.

Coach Godfrey Okumu contested these crucial calls in an interview. “Sometimes, I felt they just invented their own rules. We can’t blame the referees, they’re just doing their jobs but not in the best interest of one party,” he said.

“Today, for the first time I’ll say it, it felt that some of the decisions, some of the calls were unfair,” he added.

On Final Four Hopes

The remaining games of UP are a must-win to improve their chances of a playoff spot and come back to the final four after coming up short last season.

Marian Buitre was optimistic, “The fight still continues. Wala na kami ibang choice kung hindi mag push pa lalo.”

Likewise, Coach Okumu remained determined. “We are going to fight, we are going strong. It’s not over until it’s over.”

The UP Lady Maroons will look to bounce back against the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs on Sunday, April 14, on Mall of Asia Arena. TNP

Photo by Kezhia Maglasang

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