by Luisa Morales
The Lady Maroons are back with a vengeance.
The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons overpowered the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs as they win in four sets, 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.
The Diliman volleybelles dominated every aspect of the match, avenging their first round loss to Jaja Santiago and the Lady Bulldogs.
UP veteran Nicole Tiamzon did not see action the whole match, with reserve Aiesha Laine Gannaban starting in all four sets.
It was a great day for UP fans. The Lady Maroons were on fire from the get-go, taking advantage of the poor reception of their opponents.
Loaded serves and powerful spikes from the Diliman squad allowed them to cruise through the first set, 25-14.
But the Bulldogs weren’t afraid to bite back. The second set was tighter with both squads going back-and-forth until the end.
NU had a set point 24-23 but the Lady Maroons managed to extend the set. Despite UP getting a set point of their own, NU was able to win the set 27-25; tying the game at one set a piece.
By the third set, State U looked poised to dominate again. Great floor defense and attacking from the Maroons looked too much for NU to handle.
It was all UP as they led the set 17-5, but NU did not go down without a fight. With a stunning 15-3 run, they caught up with UP at 20-all.
The UP fans were at the edge of their seats as the set was suddenly within NU’s reach.
Key plays from State U, however, powered the Diliman-based squad to take a 2-1 lead, 25-21.
Unfazed by the fierce comeback of their opponents, UP came into the fourth set looking to finish strong.
NU looked tired as State U kept pounding the Lady Bulldogs with loaded serves, while UP veteran Kathy Bersola answered everything Santiago had to offer.
The Lady Maroons ended the match on a high note, dominating NU all throughout the set, 25-12.
UP finished the match with five Lady Maroons in double figures – Bersola, Isa Molde and Tots Carlos had 14 points apiece, while Gannaban and Ali Buitre chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Captain Jaja Santiago led NU with 18 points, followed by Aiko Urdas with 12 markers.
With the crucial win, the Lady Maroons tie the Lady Bulldogs at fourth place with a 7-5 win-loss card, and more importantly, keep their Final Four hopes alive.
UP is set to face the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses, currently at solo third, on April 2, at the Mall Of Asia Arena.