The Lady Spikers beat back the challenge of a complete NU team, 25-20, 23-25, 24-26, 25-13, 15-8 yesterday to take the solo lead in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Tournament. The 5-set victory was in sharp contrast to their easy 3-set victory in the first round where NU played without their starting setter.
The game was tight from the start, with both teams taking turns in the lead in the first set before the Lady Spikers pulled through in the latter parts of the first set to take the set. The second and third sets were close throughout, with NU able to seize the initiative in both sets before uncharacteristic errors in the closing stages by the Lady Spikers saw then yield both sets by a mere 2 points. Cai Nepomuceno, who had been relegated to a support role with the entry of Santiago, Pablo, and Urdas, showed why she was the backbone of past NU teams as she scored repeatedly on attacks during these middle sets while helping to foil our teams’ attacks at the net.
With their backs to the wall, down 2 sets to 1, the Lady Spikers showed their true championship caliber, emphatically grabbing the initiative right from the start of the 4th set and controlling the tempo of the game from that point onward. Santiago, who had scored early on net attacks, was closely marked, repeatedly blocked and was rendered ineffective from then on, as was Pablo. With our net defense neutralizing the potent NU attacks, the Lady Spikers took the 4th set in dominating fashion. The 5th set was all DLSU as NU faded badly.
After downing erstwhile leader Ateneo at the close of the first round, the Lady Spikers started the second round off with a resounding victory. This game, the second consecutive 5-set victory of the Lady Spikers, underscored their readiness to defend their crown. For a second straight game, Ara Galang was adjudged the Player of the Game for her all around excellence with 21 points on 17 attacks and 4 blocks, including a one-on-one rejection of the much taller Santiago. She was ably backed up by Mika Reyes and Abi Marano who tallied 13 points each, and Michelle Gumabao who scored 10. Mika Esperanza did an excellent job of the setting up her teammates in this game.
One area of concern is the tendency of the team to relax at the start and allow their opponents to take an early lead. In both games against Ateneo and NU, the Lady Spikers fell back by 2 sets. Part of this may be due to the game plans of the other teams prepared specifically for the Lady Spikers. It’s taken a couple of sets for the Lady Spikers to adjust to the best that the opponents try to dish out, but when they do figure it out, are able to take control of the game. Perhaps a better approach will be to impose their game plan on the opponents from the start, instead of letting the other team take the initiative.
Up next is UST, which dealt the Lady Spikers their lone loss in our very first game. UST has lost 3 games in the first round, but seems to have regained their form in the last couple of games. This will probably be a tightly contested match, but expect the Lady Spikers to go out for payback.