With new faces everywhere in the arena, Eya Laure gave the return of women’s varsity volleyball a familiar sight to behold in UAAP Season 84 on Thursday.
Laure provided University of Santo Tomas (UST) a rock-solid anchor to steady the team in shaky stretches as the Tigresses slammed Far Eastern University’s (FEU) Lady Tamaraws, 25-23, 25-20, 25-21, at Mall of Asia Arena.
Laure hammered down 13 attack points on the way to a total of 14, while Camille Victoria emerged from her shell to deliver 12 points as the Tigresses notched the first victory in women’s volleyball return from a pandemic-forced pause.
“It was a shaky performance, but at least we won,” said UST coach Kungfu Reyes, whose team finished second to Ateneo the last time the league completed a women’s volleyball tournament.
The Tigresses committed 23 errors—a manageable total considering the Lady Tams coughed up 31—but a bulk of those came when UST had seized comfortable cushions only to allow FEU to creep closer.
On those occasions, Laure came through with clutch hits to allow the Tigresses to hold on.
“We had several unforced errors and we’re glad we still won in straight sets,” Reyes said.
Among the new faces who shone on Thursday were rookies Alyssa Solomon and Bella Belen, who punched in rousing performances in their senior debuts as National University (NU) crushed Adamson, 25-15, 25-23, 25-18.
Solomon and Belen spearheaded NU’s vaunted champion high school squad, Nazareth School, and seamlessly transferred their talents to the senior level, where they fueled the Lady Bulldogs’ 85-minute drubbing of the Lady Falcons.
Solomon delivered 15 points built on 11 attacks, three blocks and an ace, while Belen came through with 14 points on a 13-of-22 attacking clip.
“As a rookie I’m really excited to team up with my ates. Finally we’re playing together again,” said Belen, a former UAAP Girls’ Most Valuable Player who played for the women’s national volleyball team in the Asian Club Championship in Thailand last year.
The Tigresses also took advantage of the products of their own noteworthy high school program. UST setter Majie Mangulabnan had 15 excellent sets and four aces as she masterfully pulled the strings of the UST offense in the third set, leading the Tigresses to a 19-10 lead. Another former high school star, libero Bernadett Pepito, protected the floor with 12 digs and nine excellent receptions.
The Lady Tamaraws, however, did not fold easily and fought back in an attempt to force another set. FEU fought to within four points, 22-18, before Laure and Ysa Jimenez delivered the game-sealing blows.
“Our players did recover from every error but we allowed FEU to stage a long rally,” Reyes said. “They took almost six points [off our lead] because we didn’t recover right away.”
“Hopefully by next game, the players will be more consistent. We need to get back to the drawing board so we can polish what we need to polish and correct our lapses.”
UST will also need to monitor the status of starting middle blocker Imee Hernandez, who left the game due to a sprain caused by a bad landing.
Reyes has ruled his star out of UST’s next game.
“It was a really bad landing and hopefully, it’s just a grade one sprain,” Reyes said. “Hopefully she can return next week because Saturday is a long shot for her.”
Meanwhile, La Salle turned back Ateneo, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20, in a later game.
Baby Jyne Soreño and rookie Leiah Malaluan spelled the difference for the Lady Spikers to overcome a first set defeat and outlast the defending champions.
—WITH A REPORT FROM LANCE AGCAOILI
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