The Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles notched its first win of UAAP Season 81 by battling past University of Santo Tomas (UST), 25-21, 25-18, 16-25, 25-22, on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Lady Eagles recovered from a brutal third set that saw them give up eight aces, then fended off the Golden Tigresses’ spirited rally in the closing stretch of the fourth frame.
Veteran middle blocker Maddie Madayag was superb for the Lady Eagles, tallying 15 points including six blocks — four of which came in a masterful second set performance. Kat Tolentino scored 22 points, including the booming down-the-line hit that put Ateneo at set point.
“‘Yung mga players ko showed resiliency after a loss,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, who grabbed his first win in the women’s division after leading the Blue Eagles to three championships. “Hopefully, this is a stepping stone for a bright future.”
Ateneo improved to 1-1, bouncing back from a four-set loss to archrival De La Salle University last Sunday.
The Lady Eagles outplayed the Golden Tigresses down the stretch of the first set, with Tolentino coming through with several clutch plays. Her rejections of Ysabel Jimenez and Milena Alessandrini anchored Ateneo’s 4-1 blast to close the set, with Bea de Leon sealing the win via a power tip.
UST was ahead, 11-8, in the second frame when the Lady Eagles came alive, thanks to the tandem of Tolentino and Madayag. The 6-foot-2 Tolentino overpowered the UST blockers repeatedly, while Madayag turned back UST’s rookie sensation, Eya Laure, at the net. The Lady Eagles won 13 of the next 15 rallies for a 21-13 lead, and cruised from there.
But the Tigresses struck back in the third frame by pouncing on Ateneo’s most glaring weakness — their service reception. Alina Bicar steered UST to a 7-0 start by firing five aces, and UST went on to lead by as much as 10 points to force an extension.
“I just told them to play with pride and intensity,” Almadro said of his instructions to the Lady Eagles after the third frame, where they managed just five kills.
Ateneo raced to an 8-2 start in Set 4, and eventually led 18-12 late off a Ponggay Gaston kill. But Sisi Rondina refused to let UST go away quietly. She sparked a 6-3 blast that made it a 3-point game, 21-18. A kill by Tolentino and a mishit by Laure made it 23-18, but the Tigresses responded with four straight points sparked by Rondina’s backrow hit.
Unfortunately for UST, they were unable to force a tie. Tolentino uncorked an unstoppable down-the-line attack for a 24-22 count, and Alessandrini’s last attempt was judged out, giving the Lady Eagles their first win.
“We’re very happy na nakabawi din kami, and we showed somewhat how we play,” said Madayag.
Rondina finished with 20 points, while Laure added 12 markers and Alessandrini scored 10. However, UST gave away 36 points off errors, and also struggled to execute their offense against the taller Ateneo team. The Lady Eagles had 12 kill blocks, and survived despite giving up 12 aces to UST.
The Golden Tigresses failed to build on their five-set win over Adamson University last Sunday, and dropped to 1-1 this season.