Saturday’s tussle between NU and FEU at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig turned out to be a battle of scoring juggernauts as Jaja Santiago and Bernadeth Pons tallied MVP numbers for their respective teams.
At the end of the 5-set thriller, Pons, who uncorked 30 big points, and the Morayta crew came home with the crucial win, 27-25, 25-17, 22-25, 26-28, 15-10, getting a solo hold of the 4th spot with a 6-5 record.
After zooming to a 2-0 lead, the Lady Tamaraws had a couple of hiccups on their reception which the opponents took advantage to extend and try to snatch the match.
“Expected talaga namin na hahaba kahit na ganun ang 1st 2 sets. Siyempre iba pa rin ‘yung pressure at momentum pag nalipat. Ibang usapan ‘yun,” admitted FEU head coach Shaq delos Santos.
“Una, medyo nag-relax. And at the same time ‘yung sa receive namin hindi naman totally nawala, bumaba lang ‘yung percentage,” he added. “‘Yun ang puhunan namin eh, service. Kargado talaga na basta hindi makukuha. Nung 3rd and 4th nabaliktad.”
Aside from NU catching fire in the 3rd and 4th frames, FEU helped the Lady Bulldogs’ cause via unforced errors which resulted to 41 free points for the opposing side.
Living up to the billing as the squad’s main gun, Pons bailed her team out of trouble with 30 big points on top of 20 excellent digs and 14 excellent receptions.
“‘Yung focus lang din ng mga bata (nawawala),” said the coach on FEU’s mid-game meltdown.
On the importance of winning the game, he adds, “Unang una sabi ko hindi na tayo pwede matalo kasi ‘yung standing natin sobrang close. Once na matalo ka dyan, delikado kasi maiiwan ka. Kailangan every point na gagawin namin, all-out kami.”
And though Pons’ star shined bright in the matchup, it was a complete team effort for last year’s 3rd runners-up as Toni Rose Basas, Jerrili Malabanan and Remy Palma put on a scoring show, combining for 54 points.
Even the surprise inclusion of setter Kyle Negrito paid off as she finished with 27 excellent sets despite sharing her playing time with veteran playmaker Gyzelle Sy.
Talking about his decision to let the less experienced setter start for FEU, delos Santos shares, “Diskarte lang kasi ‘yung mga ilang games namin, hindi pa namin nakukuha ‘yung laro ni Gy (Sy). ‘Yung adjustment nandun pa rin.”
“Nung naglaro kasi kami ng Unigames, ‘yun ‘yung anim namin. Nakita din namin na potential si (Kyle) Negrito and at the same time ‘yung blocking makakatulong siya,” he added.
Santiago, a dominating middle blocker, carried her teammates with 28 points but it was for naught as they drop to a 5-6 record, temporarily derailing them in their path to the semifinals. — By Mac Dionisio