UP MVT still reaching, WVT snatches first win in emotional round-one ender

The quest for a sole round-one win by the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons ended with split results in the UAAP Season 86 Collegiate Volleyball Tournament against the gutsy University of the East (UE) Red Warriors on Sunday, March 17, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The men’s squad capped off their first-round campaign empty-handed, while their female counterparts dug deep to end a 17-game slump since the last season.

Bitter round-ender

Despite their best offensive output yet, the UP Men’s Volleyball Team (MVT) failed to close out a five-set thriller against the UE Red Warriors, 21-25, 25-19, 30-28, 25-27, 12-15, to remain winless in the first round of the tournament.

Down 0-1 after an error-laden opening frame, State U cranked up its attacks from the service line to overpower UE and earn its first set win of the season with a six-point lead sealed by Angelo Lagando.

UP managed to build a five-point cushion in the neck-and-neck third set, but the Diliman-based squad’s unforced errors continued to take a toll, handing the boys from Recto the opportunity to knot the frame at 24-all.

With neither team giving an inch in the extended salvo, a crucial Red Warriors’ error paved the way for a Daniel Nicolas block en route to a 2-1 set cushion.

However, the Fighting Maroons botched a 15-10 lead in the fourth set as UE punished the former’s poor floor defense and pushed the nip-and-tuck affair to a decider.

An aggressive UE set the pace for the final set with UP trailing behind throughout its entirety.

Despite trimming the deficit to 12-14, the Fighting Maroons’ chances of winning were stomped after a Nino Bersano service error.

Lagando led UP with a season-high 26 points built from 22 attacks, three blocks and an ace. Meanwhile, Louis Gamban contributed 19 points to go with his 10 excellent digs and 15 receptions.

For UE, Axel Defeo and John Aligayon tallied identical offensive outputs at 21 points.

A wish come true

The UP Women’s Volleyball Team (WVT) finally had a taste of victory after stunning the Casiey Dongallo-led UE Lady Red Spikers, 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17.

State U dedicated their breakthrough victory to Niña Ytang, who missed the game following the loss of her mother, and to Mona Adviento-Maghanoy, the Chairperson for the UP Varsity Program, who passed away on March 15.

“We offer this [win] to ma’am Mona Adviento, our sports psych[ologist], who just passed away kaya kami may mga ganito [white wristbands]. Ma’am Mona, this is for you. And kay Niña, for her mother,” UP Coach Oliver Almadro shared during the post-game interview.

The UP MVT also wore the said white wristbands and armbands in their earlier match-up.

The UP Women’s Volleyball Team sing the university hymn after their first win of the season. Photo by Emman Capones

Early in the opening set, State U was first to arrive at the double-digit mark with a 4-point lead until UE shifted their attack patterns with an off-the-block hit from Kayce Balingit to reach 17-all.

However, efforts from UE’s Dongallo were spoiled by a set-winning ace from Season 85 team captain Jewel Encarnacion.

With the momentum on the side of Diliman, State U cruised through the second set, 25-20, with playmaker Mikaela Magsombol orchestrating the Maroons’ all-out attacks.

The Diliman squad was given a taste of their own medicine, however, as the girls from Recto came alive in the third set, exploding to a 7-point cushion, 12-19. 

State U responded with a series of substitutions but proved too late as UE clinched the set with an attack from Dongallo. 

It was a tight fourth salvo early on with UP arriving at the first technical timeout ahead by only a point, 8-7.

State U capitalized on the slim margin to pull ahead as the lead ballooned to five coming into the second technical timeout, 16-11. 

Joan Monares scored back-to-back crosscourt kills to bring UP towards match point, with an ace from Bustrillo closing off their first victory of the season.  

Despite the absence of reigning second-best middle blocker Ytang, Stephanie Bustrillo rose to the occasion with 24 big points to lead four other Lady Maroons who scored in double digits.

Rookie Jan Baclay also stood tall with a season-high seven blocks, while league-leading digger Yesha Capistrano fortified UP’s defense with 12 excellent digs and receptions.

On the other hand, Dongallo paced UE with 26 points, while Balingit chipped in 14 markers. 

The match marked the winning debut of Coach Almadro for the Lady Maroons, who now post a 1-6 record entering round two tomorrow, March 20, at 2 p.m. Meanwhile, UP MVT continues their search for their first win of the season at 10 a.m.

Both games will be held at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum against the National University Bulldogs.