National University started off its UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball campaign with a resounding statement Wednesday.
The upstart Lady Bulldogs shocked University of Santo Tomas in come-from-behind fashion, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The troika of Margot Mutshima, Ivy Lacsina and Risa Sato rallied NU from a one-set deficit to forge a decider. There, the Lady Bulldogs displayed composure, providing the fire suppressor needed to douse the Lady Tigresses.
Mutshima impressed in her league debut, firing 23 points built on 20 attacks and three aces. The 6-foot-2 Congolese spearheaded the offensive charge, while Lacsina and Sato anchored above the net.
The second-year Lacsina and the returning Sato netted seven blocks apiece, as the former finished with 19 markers while the latter ended with 17.
Joni Chavez ably stepped up in lieu of the injured Joyme Cagande, dishing out 21 excellent sets. For her part, Jennifer Nierva manned the floor with a double-double outing of 20 digs and 20 receptions.
NU head coach Norman Miguel said that his youthful wards needed to shake off the nerves early on. But once they found their confidence in the fourth frame, the Lady Bulldogs were giving UST all it could handle.
“‘Yung game, ‘yung mga players kanina medyo nagibabaw pa ‘yung nebryos sa game. Medyo natagalan maka-recover that’s why naapektuhan ‘yung skills namin sa passing sa mga ball control,” Miguel said.
“Tsaka siguro late na rin talaga nagconnect kailangan pa umabot sa dulo. So fourth set na kami totally nagconnect with each other. Nakuha na namin ‘yung rhythm after nu’ng fourth set, then finally nung fifth set yun na talaga yung nilalaro nila,” he added.
In the frantic fifth frame, UST errors propelled the Lady Bulldogs to a commanding 7-2 lead. Imee Hernandez and the Laure sisters though ignited the fire of the Golden Tigresses, who whittled away the deficit and knocked to within one, 8-9.
But the returning Risa Sato refused to give way, restoring order with a thunderous quick. Both teams traded blows from there, until Margot Mutshima powered NU at match point, 14-11.
Mutshima sent her backrow attack wide in the ensuing play to give UST some hope before Imee Hernandez roofed Lacsina to trim the deficit, 13-14. Lacsina though made a swift response, hammering down a quick kill to douse any chance of a comeback from the Golden Tigresses.
Eya Laure topped UST with 20 points in a losing cause, while Hernandez managed 18 in her collegiate debut. For her part, EJ Laure put up 17 markers in a somber return to the lair of the Golden Tigresses.
NU tries to stay on the right track when it collides Adamson University on Sunday, March 8. Meanwhile, UST seeks to enter the winner’s circle when it faces Far Eastern University on the same day. Both matches will be held at the same venue.
In the second game, Ateneo de Manila University set its title-retention bid in motion, sending out a strong statement to the rest of the league.
The Lady Eagles brewed the perfect blend of veteran smarts and youthful energy to dispose University of the Philippines, 25-13, 25-17, 25-23, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’re so grateful and finally we had an opportunity to play again in the UAAP and [we’re] thankful also the Lord gave us this first win. Malaking bagay to para sa amin to win the first game of the season but we will not stop here, one game will not determine our character,” Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro said.
The defending champions barely felt the departure of Maddie Madayag, Bea De Leon and Kim Gequillana as the impressive outings of Kat Tolentino, Faith Nisperos and Jules Samonte propelled Ateneo to a rousing start.
The Lady Eagles soared right out of the gates, creating double-digit separation in the first frame for an early buffer. Riding the crest of that surge, they never trailed in the match en route to a sweep.
Tolentino showcased her deadly form with 15 points built on 12 attacks and three blocks. Nisperos impressed in her collegiate debut with 10 markers, while Jules Samonte collected three blocks for 10 points as well.
Still, Ateneo had to overcome a huge scare late as the Fighting Maroons stayed true to their name.
Facing a tall deficit in the decisive third set, UP trimmed it one by one, closing in at 21-22. Eureka Eslapor though coughed out a costly error from the service line, giving Tolentino the opening to buoy Ateneo at a 24-21 match point.
Marist Layug and a mishit from Nisperos pumped life into UP’s comeback hopes, but a Rem Cailing service error dimmed any glimmer of hope.
“We’re just happy na nakapaglaro na kami ulit and we won the first game,” expressed Almadro.
Tots Carlos emerged as the lone Fighting Maroon in double digit territory with 11 points. Isa Molde managed nine markers in a losing cause.
Ateneo now marches into an early rival match when it collides with the La Salle Lady Spikers on Saturday, March 7. On the same day, UP tries to hop on the right track when it faces University of the East. Both matches will be held at the same venue.