Homegrown stars fuel NU to share of early lead

NU Lady Bulldogs celebrate a point against Ateneo Blue Eagles. UAAP PHOTO

As brilliant as Faith Nisperos was all over the floor on Saturday, her team was no match to the program that started her career not too long ago.

National University (NU), drawing firepower from homegrown talents from its high school team, notched a 25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 25-22, over Ateneo, sending the defending champions to a second straight setback in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.

Princess Robles and Michaela Belen had 18 points each while Alyssa Solomon and Ivy Lacsina chipped in 15 and 12 respectively as the Lady Bulldogs stormed to their second straight victory that should have established them as the team to beat this season.

Except that NU coach Karl Dimaculangan doesn’t feel that way just yet.

“It’s not a statement win just yet because it’s still early in the first round and we still have a lot to improve on,” Dimaculangan said after that game. “After this, we have to go back to the drawing board and study what needs to be cleaned up and then prepare for the next game.”

“We also had a lot of errors,” he added. Ateneo had 38 points off NU’s errors in the game.

Nisperos came through with an all-around performance for the Blue Eagles, leading the way with 16 points while shouldering the defensive chores with her 19 excellent receptions and 10 excellent digs.

But against the stalwarts of the high school program she once belonged to, Nisperos’ heroics went for naught.

Instead, Robles, Belen, Solomon and Lacsina took turns drilling kills on the opposite floor as NU took a share of the early lead in the tournament.

With the Lady Bulldogs on top is La Salle, which cruised past Adamson, 25-21, 25-20, 25-14, to also notch a second straight victory.

Lacsina has an idea what NU needs to work on as it progresses in the tournament, encircling the Lady Bulldogs’ performance in the third frame.

“We relaxed a bit in the third set and maybe we lost a little of our aggressiveness,” she said after the game. “We have time to prepare so that’s what we really need to work on.”

“We played our best but there are things we really need to improve,” Robles added.

Still, the victory—NU’s first over Ateneo in four years—was something to be delighted about.

“This is perhaps the game we were really excited about and we’re really happy because it’s been a while since NU beat Ateneo,” Lacsina said.

In the other game, Jolina dela Cruz led the way for La Salle with 12 points and had 11 excellent digs as the Lady Spikers sent the Lady Falcons to their second straight loss. Alleiah Malaluan also had 12 points while the middle duo of Thea Gagate and Fifi Sharma added nine and eight, respectively.

La Salle also milked their net defense, scoring nine points off kill-blocks.

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