National University (NU) proved that sweeping the eliminations meant something. And on Saturday night, it made sure La Salle got the point.
Playing with confidence and composure, the Lady Bulldogs shut down the Lady Spikers—as they did the rest of the field all season—to step within a win of capturing the UAAP Season 84 women’s volleyball championship.
With their front line all scoring in double figures, the Lady Bulldogs fashioned out a resounding 25-20, 25-12, 25-21 triumph, silencing the big La Salle crowd that came to the Mall of Asia Arena hoping to see National U’s 14-game winning streak come to an end.
“I don’t know why, but our game changes every time we face La Salle,” said Mhicaela Belen, who scored 16 points for NU, in Filipino. “Maybe it’s because we respect them so much that we are all in our elements when facing them.”
Alyssa Solomon added 15 points while Ivy Lacsina and Princess Robles chipped in 12 points each for NU, which could wrap up its first title in 65 years with a win on Tuesday’s Game 2 while completing a perfect season.
“The players are really motivated playing in the big games,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan. “They give it their all. So maybe that’s it. It’s their motivation.”
The biggest motivation now is finishing the season with a clean sweep to the championship. They have won 15 matches so far, but Dimaculangan chose not to dwell on it yet.
Still it was a loud response to the statement of La Salle assistant coach Benson Bocboc made on the eve of Game 1 when he said that the 14-0 sweep “has no value” when it comes to the finals.
“We used the stepladder format to prepare and watch who we will be facing in the finals,” said Dimaculangan. “Good thing we were able to execute everything we prepared for. Although there are some things we have to work on in the next game.”
A thing to work on
National U will try to address the nine unforced errors it committed in the third set that basically allowed the Lady Spikers to keep the gap closer.
“Now we are happy because we won, but we made a lot of mistakes, especially in the simple things,” said Solomon, who scored four of NU’s last five points. “Those are the things we need to work on in training.”
NU waited until the middle of the first set before unleashing its usual dominant flair, storming to a 16-9 lead.
But La Salle didn’t give up easily, threatening to within 13-17 only to watch as Solomon drilled back-to-back aces to swing the momentum back to the Lady Bulldogs’ favor.
The Lady Bulldogs committed more turnovers, 8-4, in the opening frame, but they made up with five kill-blocks against the Lady Spikers’ one which shook the resolve of La Salle’s wing spikers.
It was basically the same in the second, except for the Lady Bulldogs being fiercer as they buried the Lady Spikers to double-digit deficits to highlight another dominant outing.
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