Reigning champion Ateneo defied the odds once again and moved up in the stepladder with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-20 sweep of University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball tournament at the MOA Arena Tuesday night, June 14.
The Blue Eagles, who were mostly trailing in the first two sets, showed poise in the third frame as Faith Nisperos, Vannie Gandler, and AC Miner joined forces to live up another day in the post-season.
Nisperos fired 23 points built on 17 spikes, four service aces, and two blocks while Gandler hammered down 15 markers all coming from attacks.
Erika Raagas and Miner also had nine and seven points each for Ateneo while captain-libero Dani Ravena contributed 17 excellent digs.
"We know naman na UST will be tough. Nakita niyo kami 'yong naghahabol, we just finished it strong and right," said Eagles head coach Oliver Almadro. "We just relied on our fundamentals and doing it right."
Ateneo unloaded a 5-0 run down the stretch capped by Nisperos' off-the-block hit to end a long rally and lead by as many as seven points, 22-15.
Imee Hernandez stayed sharp and retaliated with back-to-back quick attacks before Nisperos once again soared and pummelled a contested down-the-line hit, 23-17.
Nisperos committed an attack error in the ensuing play but it was also her who enabled the Eagles to heave a sigh of relief after reaching match point, 24-18, a cross-court kill.
UST kept the match within striking distance, 24-20, courtesy of Ypril Tapia's kill and Jaja Maraguinot's unforced error but Nisperos, the league's second-leading scorer, put the finishing touches for the Eagles with a quick hit for the win.
"I just asked Faith to relax," added Almadro "Alam niyo naman si Faith, 'yong intensity niya. I really commend this girl kasi nag-adjust siya. I guess and I hope Faith is maturing right in time."
Eya Laure paced the Golden Tigresses with 15 points on top of 13 spikes while Hernandez had 11 markers off 10 attacks. Ysa Jimenez and Camille Victoria also chipped in nine and seven points, respectively.
Ateneo is set to face the second-seeded and twice-to-beat advantage holder De La Salle on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the same venue.