Golden Tigresses fall short to Lady Bulldogs in finals

UST finishes second, its highest placement since Season 81
Photo by Daniela Thricia Anne Elgarico/THE FLAME

THE NU Lady Bulldogs reclaimed their crown after outplaying the rookie-laden UST Golden Tigresses in four sets, 23-25, 25-22, 25-27, 16-25, in Game 2 of UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball finals on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was a double victory for NU and a double whammy for UST, which had declared a “yellow day” as an expression of support for its athletes.

Hours earlier, Thomasians saw their Golden Spikers bow to defending champion NU Bulldogs also in four sets during the finals of the men’s division.

It was nevertheless an improvement for the España-based squad as it ended its campaign in second place, its highest placement since Season 81.

NU leaned on the duo of finals MVP Alyssa Solomon and two-time conference MVP Bella Belen’s combined score of 46 points to seal their second title in three seasons.

The two teams had a see-saw of exchanges early in the first set, which ended when the injured Rookie of the Year Angge Poyos flew in for the soft touch to cause a deadlock, 5-all. Belen then executed a fast hit to give NU a two-point lead, 8-6.

However, Tigress lefty Reg Jurado halted the Bulldogs’ 3-0 run through a combination play in the middle, 15-13.  But NU clawed back as Solomon claimed the first set with a furious attack through UST’s floor defense, 25-23.

The second set was a different story for the Tigresses as middle blocker Pia Abbu shut down the Bulldogs’ blocker to extend UST’s lead to four, 16-12.

Outside spiker Xyza Gula then initiated a crosscourt hit, allowing UST to bring the game to one set apiece, 25-22.

UST took the momentum in the third set, even leading by four points, 17-13. But Belen’s MVP prowess proved costly for UST when she smashed an off-the-block kill to cut the Tigresses’ lead to three, 17-14.

NU middle blocker Sheena Toring claimed the crucial third set after scoring a quick attack, 27-25.

The Lady Bulldogs started where they left off, taking a 10-5 lead to start the fourth set, maintaining the momentum for the rest of the game. NU secured its fourth UAAP volleyball crown with Sheena Toring’s tenth and final point of the game, 25-16.

”(It was) very fulfilling because we were together a long time and then given last year’s performance, we kind of redeemed ourselves,” Belen said, referring to NU’s championship loss to the DLSU Lady Spikers during the previous season.

UST head coach Emilio “Kung Fu” Reyes commended the Tigresses’ improvement throughout the season.

“We did not lose because we learned so much, we lose when we don’t learn,” Reyes said postgame.

Xyza Gula stepped up for UST, finishing with 18 points from 16 attacks and two aces. Meanwhile,  Jonna Perdido chipped in 14 markers.

Lady Bulldog Alyssa Solomon exploded with 27 big points, composed of 20 attacks, four blocks and three aces while Belen added 19 markers. F

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