The prominence of wing spikers EJ Laure, Cherry Rondina and Carmela Tunay, who combined for 55 big points, in the scoreboard in UST’s five-set win over NU Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena made the lack of points from its middle blockers a little unusual.
Though the Golden Tigresses won, 25-14, 25-18, 17-25, 19-25, 15-12, the glaring 9-point output from the quickers was a big question mark up until the final buzzer.
But as it turns out, it was all part of the game plan.
“Game plan ‘yun. Icha-challenge mo ba si Jaja (Santiago)?” revealed UST head coach Kungfu Reyes.
“Sa porsyento 70 ma-block ka, 30 makalusot ka. Ang baba ng bola, ang lapit sa net,” he added. “Kaya dun kami sa dulo. Hahatakin namin siya sa gitna, dun kami aatake sa dulo. Dun naging effective sa 1st 2 sets.”
It did wonders for the España squad as it came firing on all cylinders in the first 2 sets with Laure, Rondina and Tunay connecting and punishing the floor defense of the Lady Bulldogs.
Come 3rd and 4th sets, however, UST faltered in its reception which allowed NU to extend the match to a decider.
“Hindi naging effective nung 3 and 4 kasi wala kaming pasa. Alam na ni Jaja saan magbabantay,” shared Reyes animatedly.
The bad passing of UST—10 excellent receptions in the entire match—went on in the 5th set which the Lady Bulldogs took advantage as they zoomed to a huge 11-6 lead heading into the deep waters.
Then came rookie setter Alyssa Teope, who, according to Reyes, made a lot of difference for the Golden Tigresses.
“Ang basis kasi namin dun, walang laro ‘yung isang setter namin na si (Alina) Bicar,” he said. “Eh pagdating nung rotation na ‘yun hindi na siya umikot sa likod.”
“‘Yung block namin biglang lumaki. Sabi ko nga kay Teope basic na lang ang play namin. Nag respond naman ‘yung bata,” he added.
And respond Teope did.
Down 11-12, the rookie, in her efforts to end a long rally, gambled on giving the ball to middle blocker Chloe Cortez which she tipped to the other side, converting the attack to a point and tying the game at 12.
UST did not look back from this point on, finishing the match with an offensive block on Myla Pablo, shutting the doors on NU and moving up the rankings with a 2-3 record.
“Huling bilin ko sa kanila nung 5th set, gagapang ba tayo o tatayo sa pagkakadapa natin? Nag respond naman although hanggang huli naghahabol kami,” said the relieved UST mentor.
“Itong pagkakapanalo na ito, ito magpapa-angat sa amin mula sa 7, siguro ngayon nasa 6 kami. Sana pagpasok ng 2nd round, hindi kami struggle at nagkukumahog na humabol sa standing,” he closed. — By Mac Dionisio