After four disappointing seasons, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses have finally lived up to their hype, clinching a spot in the Final Four with a classic five-set win over the National University Lady Bulldogs, 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-12, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The Tigresses floundered in the first two sets, struggling to stop NU ace and league leading scorer Jaja Santiago. The Tigresses stopped the bleeding in the next two sets, as their solid serving and blocking game forced the Lady Bulldogs into slow attacks and errors.
Heading into the fifth set, UST head coach Kungfu Reyes trusted his players to adjust and bring them to the promise land.
“Sinabi lang namin sa kanila na nandito na tayo, ilaban na natin hanggang dulo,” Reyes recalled telling his team.
“Doon na lalabas ‘yung sinasabing larong kalye. Tiyagaan na lang talaga hanggang dulo. Basta kayang buhayin ‘yung bola, gagawin nila.”
The fifth set came down to a 3-0 UST run that boosted them to a 12-8 lead. Santiago kept the Lady Bulldogs alive, tying the match at 12 after a sequence that led to one of her thunderous blocks.
UST ace spiker Ej Laure had a bad fall when UST were up 13-12, landing awkwardly on her left ankle. She was able to recover but saw her team take the match in a blitz capped by a Dimdim Pacres off-speed hit.
Ej Laure and Sisi Rondina led UST with 22 points apiece. With a 9-5 record, UST have bagged the third seed and will face the loser of the Ateneo-La Salle clash on April 22.
“Siyempre, na-reach na namin ‘yung goal na Final Four. Ngayon, kailangan na namin higitan. Tatrabahuhin na lang namin nang maigi,” Reyes closed.
Jaja Santiago ended her season with 30 points, while Jorelle Singh added 13.
The Lady Bulldogs, after starting the season at 3-0, drop out of the Final Four for the second straight year. They finish at sixth place.
UST (3) – Laure 22, Rondina 22, Francisco 11, Meneses 10, Pacres 4, Sandoval 3, Bicar 2, Lastimosa 1, Cortez 0, Palec 0, Viray 0, Rasmo (L), Rivera (L)
NU (2) – Santiago 30, Singh 13, Urdas 11, Sato 9, Nabor 5, Chavez 0, Valdez (L)