University of Santo Tomas puts La Salle on the ropes

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas claimed the Final Four incentive  it badly needed,  putting defending champion La Salle on the ropes with an emphatic 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19 victory yesterday in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the jampacked Filoil Flying V Centre.

The Tigresses now hold the twice-to-beat advantage and will seek to end the Lady Spikers’ three-year reign in their semifinal showdown on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Eyeing its first Finals appearance for the first time since 2010-11 season, UST is determined to make a return trip to the last dance.

“Tatrabahuhin namin hanggang makuha namin ‘yung goal namin,” said graduating skipper Sisi Rondina in a television interview after scoring 29 points, including two blocks and two service aces for the Tigresses.

Rookie Eya Laure chipped in 17 hits, while Ysa Jimenez had three service aces for an eight-point outing to go with 14 digs for UST.

The Tigresses broke a 12-12 deadlock in the fourth set behind the exploits of Rondina to take a 19-13 advantage.

La Salle tried to mount a comeback after cutting their deficit to 18-22 but a service error by rookie Jolina Dela Cruz followed by a Rondina ace gave UST the match point advantage.

Lourdes Clemente saved a match point before rookie Laure delivered the match-clinching kill to seal the deal for the Tigresses.   

It was the Lady Spikers’ second straight loss.  La Salle failed to clinch the No. 2 seed outright following last Sunday’s 22-25, 25-13, 25-15, 25-27, 8-15 defeat to Far Eastern University.

The Lady Spikers squandered an early 6-1 lead in the third set as the Tigresses fought back to take a 23-22 lead after an overreaching call on Clemente.

La Salle got the needed breaks to extend the match, as Aduke Ogunsanya’s attack and  a Laure mishit allowed the Lady Spikers to gain a lifeline.

Dela Cruz paced La Salle with 12 points while Desiree Cheng had nine markers and 12 digs.

The other Final Four duel pits top-ranked Ateneo and No. 4 FEU on Saturday at the same Pasay venue.