Alive and Spiking

National University Bulldogs
The Bulldogs celebrate their second straight championship. (Dennis Abrina, PJ)

ATENEO lived for another day as it dragged University of Santo Tomas to a deciding Game 3 with 26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15 victory in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament last night before 19,672 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.  

The Lady Eagles rebounded mightily from last weekend’s straight sets loss to the Tigresses with seniors Maddie Madayag, Bea de Leon and Kat Tolentino combining for 41 points to level the series at 1-1.

The do-or-die match is set at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the same Pasay venue.

Meanwhile, Bryan Bagunas had a glorious finish with a career-high 35 points, 12 digs and nine receptions as National University bested Far Eastern University, 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19, to retain the men’s crown.

The mighty Bulldogs swept the best-of-three series, 2-0, and ended the season with 16 consecutive victories after a shock opening weekend loss to the Tamaraws, which coach Dante Alinsunurin said  was a wake-up call.

“Doon nagising ang team. Ang sabi ko nasaan ba tayo ngayon, bakit biglang natalo tayo. Mabuti naman at naka-catch up agad kami, nakabalik kami ulit sa panalo. Tuluy-tuloy lang sa ginagawa namin, nagbunga at nakuha namin ulit ang championship,” said Alinsunurin.

Ateneo also drew huge games from Jules Samonte, who had three service aces to finish with seven hits on top of 16 receptions, while libero Dani Ravena collected 22 digs and 12 receptions.

The Lady Eagles were able to snatch the extended first set, as the Tigresses gave away 13 points from errors, seven of which came from the service area.

UST started strong in the second frame and cooled down Ateneo’s fightback behind Ysa Jimenez’s steady serving to level at one set apiece.

Eya Laure hurt her left ankle early in the third but the newly-minted Rookie of the Year was able to return late in the set, which the Tigresses eventually dropped, allowing the Lady Eagles to grab the upperhand.

Rondina, who formally received the season MVP award prior to Game 2, led UST with 22 points, including three blocks, 21 digs and eight receptions.

“UST community, ito lang masasabi ko: The best kayo!” said a beaming Rondina after receiving the league’s highest individual honors with her parents who arrived from Cebu last Tuesday.

The loss ended the Tigresses’ seven-match winning streak, as it hopes to have a healthy Laure come Game 3.

Now with four titles, NU has tied University of the Philippines as the fourth winningest program behind FEU’s 25, UST’s 19 and University of the East’s 13.  

It has been a successful year for the Bulldogs, not only by winning the UAAP crown but also representing the Philippines well by copping the ASEAN University Games gold in Naypyitaw, Myanmar last December.

“Kapag nag-uusap kami, hindi lang dapat sa Pilipinas tayo mag-domina, pati sa ibang bansa,” said Alinsunurin, who is also the current national men’s volleyball coach.

Bagunas was named the season and Finals MVP to go with the 1st Best Outside Hitter and Best Server awards.

Richard Solis paced FEU with 18 points and 17 digs while Jude Garcia, Peter Quiel, RJ Paler and JP Bugaoan each scored 11 markers.