Golden Spikers maintain mastery over Bulldogs in five sets

Photo by Jianzen Deananeas/THE FLAME

COLLECTIVE EFFORT and discipline propelled the UST Golden Spikers to a come-from-behind victory against defending champions NU Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball tournament Round 2 on Sunday.

UST completed a reverse sweep, rallying to win a five-set thriller against NU, 28-30, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-9, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The victory improved the Golden Spikers’ win-loss record to 5-4 while the NU Bulldogs fell to 7-2.

Thomasian outside hitter Gboy de Vega, who struggled in the first three sets, came off the bench and scored five crucial attacks to extend the match to a deciding fifth set.

The Golden Spikers started strong in the first set, building an 11-point cushion at 14-3. However, UST’s unsuccessful challenge halted its momentum as NU countered with a 6-2 run, trimming the lead to two, 18-16.

Middle blocker Obed Mukaba scored back-to-back points with a quick attack and an ace to give NU the edge in the extended first set, 30-28.

The second frame was tight but the Bulldogs began to pull away in the latter part after a successful foot fault challenge, gaining the lead, 22-20.

Outside hitter Kenneth Salvador powered UST with five points in the second set, but committed a service error to hand NU the 2-0 set advantage, 25-22.

UST rallied in the third set, starting with a six-point lead after NU setter Owa Retamar committed a service error, 12-6. The Golden Spikers foiled the Bulldogs’ late rally attempt as Ybañez outsmarted NU’s defense with a dropball to seal a 25-23 set-win.

The Bulldogs clawed back immediately, leading as much as seven points in the fourth frame after Mukaba blocked Ybañez, 15-8. UST quickly recovered with a 6-0 run, powered by de Vega’s crosscourt kill, narrowing the gap to 16-14.

The Golden Spikers tied the set after two consecutive blocks against NU open hitter Nico Almendras, 18-all. De Vega bolstered UST’s 7-4 run, leveling the match with two sets apiece, 25-22.

UST remained aggressive in the fifth set, pulling away after a crucial ace from opposite hitter Sherwin Umandal, 9-4. NU tried to capitalize on UST’s service errors, but Ybañez delivered a powerful cross-court kill off a combination play to end the game, and complete an elimination round sweep of the Bulldogs, 15-9.

Team captain and setter Dux Yambao recorded four points and 26 excellent sets.

“During the first round, we [underestimated] other teams after we beat NU. We lacked discipline. Now, we have to start looking at other teams the same way we see NU,” Yambao told The Flame.

Reigning MVP Joshua Ybañez carried UST’s offensive load with a career-high 34-point performance, including 31 attacks, two blocks, and an ace. De Vega and Salvador both chipped in 18 markers.

Rookie Jade Disquitado paced the Bulldogs with 20 points, while Aringo and Almendras added 19 and 13 points, respectively.

The UST Golden Spikers eye to maintain their winning streak as they face the Adamson Soaring Falcons on April 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena. F

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