Maroons lose early-game spark in twin NU losses to start Round 2

The University of the Philippines (UP) opened Round 2 of the UAAP Season 86 Collegiate Volleyball Tournaments with another pair of tough losses against the National University (NU) on Wednesday, March 20, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The defeat left the men’s squad still grasping for a breakthrough win, while their women counterparts settled to a 1-7 record, sharing the similar tale of a dimming early-game spark.

On opposite ends

The UP Men’s Volleyball Team (UP MVT) absorbed their eighth consecutive loss of the season after a stingy scraping by the top-seeded NU Bulldogs, 23-25, 22-25, 16-25.

It was all smiles in each State U huddle as Jessie Rubin opened the set with back-to-back points that sparked an early 9-3 lead.

However, a solid three-man block from the defending champions denied an Angelo Lagando hit to mark the first deadlock of the match at 13-all.

UP struggled to take control from there as the Jhocson squad took their first lead of the game after Obed Mukaba spiked through a scrambling UP defense, 15-16.

Despite the Maroons’ attempts to keep their early dominance ablaze, the nip-and-tuck affair left them closely trailing behind the Bulldogs to surrender the set with an unsuccessful block touch challenge.

UP also suffered the same fate in a tightly-contested second set that saw three consecutive Lagando scores to catch NU at 22-24, before making a service error that cost them their set.

During the third salvo, a two-man block by NU’s Jade Disquitado and Rwenzmel Taguibolos denied another Lagando hit to ultimately seal the win for the Bulldogs.

Lagando led the Maroons with 14 points on 12 attacks, one block and an ace. Meanwhile, Louis Gamban provided steady support on both ends of the court with 12 points and 16 excellent receptions.

UP’s Louis Gamban and teammates rejoice midgame against the NU Bulldogs. Photo by The UAAP

Three NU Bulldogs scored double figures with Nico Almendras tallying 19 points on a 66.7% attacking efficiency.

Twice is too much

Coming from a breakthrough win last March 17, the UP Women’s Volleyball Team (UP WVT) fell short of replicating their dominant showing after getting bitten down by the NU Lady Bulldogs in four sets, 21-25, 32-30, 17-25, 19-25.

Despite showcasing a gallant stand through their impressive net defense with 15 blocks against NU’s seven, UP’s offensive struggles took a major toll as they converted only 25.9% of their attacks.

In a lopsided affair, the Lady Maroons managed to stay poised in the early minutes, enjoying 4 unforced errors by the Lady Bulldogs for a 7-3 lead.

Season 85 runner-ups NU, however, were quick to shrug off their early rust after sparking a 5-1 run during a 20-all deadlock capped by a Bella Belen service ace.

Facing a tall order, State U did not let the Lady Bulldogs deter them as they proved steadier in the neck-and-neck second set, where they stared down several set points before a two-woman block on Belen tied the game at one set win apiece.

The Diliman-based crew banked on their momentum to get within striking distance in the third set, 10-11.

But the Norman Miguel-led squad did not allow any breathing room for UP and rode on the heroics of the Belen-Vange Alinsug duo.

Although a late 4-0 UP bomb trimmed a 9-point deficit to just 19-24, Aishat Bello soared high for a quick hitter to seal the victory for NU.

After finishing with 24 points in her previous outing, Stephanie Bustrillo led the Lady Maroons in scoring once again with 17 markers, while Yesha Capistrano registered 12 digs and nine excellent receptions.

With the absence of last season’s 2nd Best Middle Blocker Niña Ytang, Pling Baclay towered the nets once more, tallying a career-high nine blocks — only two behind former Blue Eagle Maddie Madayag’s UAAP record of 11.

Meanwhile, Alinsug and Season 84 Rookie-MVP Belen finished with 24 and 21 points, respectively.

UP seeks to bounce back as they face the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles on Sunday, March 24, at 10 a.m. for men’s and 2 p.m. for women’s at the same venue.