Volleyball evangelist Tex Suter takes a look at Sunday’s UAAP women’s volleyball games.
Game 1: NU def. UE, 25-15 25-21 22-25 25-21
This game was between both teams wanting to prove that their last game wasn’t a fluke, UE wanting to prove that they took a set from the Lady Bulldogs because they played better, and the NU team wanting to prove that they dropped a set to the Lady Warriors due to a momentary loss of focus. Here is how things played out.
Set 1 saw both teams try to prove each other wrong as they tried to establish their respective style of play. NU took the lead into the first TTO 8-7, and started to look more poised on the defensive side and thus transitioned more effectively. Proof of that was the second TTO when it was 16-10. UE began to look baffled at what the NU team was executing on the offensive end. At 18-11, Coach Francis sued for time to plead with his team to just play like they practiced. His team did not heed his pleas and NU just ran away with the set 25-15. Jaja Santiago put her stamp on the set and got great support from her team.
Set 2 saw UE race to a lead into the first TTO up 8-5, NU getting plagued with errors. UE then doubled up on NU into the second TTO 16-8. The Lady Bulldogs were unable to pass the ball with any efficiency. NU finally found its passing game and went on a 10-2 run to tie things up at 18. The transition game of UE was showing the lack of experience of the UE setter. Selle Baliton became very predictable on offense which made blocking them easier for NU. The Lady Bulldogs taking this 25-21.
Set 3 saw NU try to put their opponents away. They took an 8-3 lead into the first TTO. UE was able to regroup and began to serve better and take away the lethality of the Lady Bulldog transition game. NU running pipe sets to Jaja from the back row proved to be unstoppable. UE persisted from the service line as that was working well for them. NU’s reception could not be relied on and UE took the set 25-22, the Lady Warriors having a 5-1 edge in aces.
Set 4 saw NU race to an 8-4 lead into the first TTO by virtue of better execution on the offensive end. UE began a barrage of their own, going on a 4-0 run to tie things up at 8. NU again took control and led into the 2nd TTO 16-13. Both teams played sloppy ball and swapped errors till they were knotted up again at 17. The game became the Jas Nabor and Jaja Santiago show, Nabor attacking from the setter’s slot and Jaja attacking from everywhere. UE had no answers and dropped the set 21-25, and the match in 4 sets.
What we saw here was a UE team that cannot be taken lightly, and could put pressure on a team’s defense. They just need to learn how to sustain it. NU showed also why they are struggling in the standings. Their Santiago-dependent offense has been solved by most teams. The attack from the back row is nothing really new as most teams have that in their arsenal. There needs to be a more balanced attack by NU for them to advance into the Final Four. Jas Nabor scored more than the right side hitter, Doromal. That is not an effective recipe for success. Singh and Urdas also need to step up if their passing becomes erratic. If Jaja has to contribute even more than she already is, she risks running out of steam in the latter sets against the better defensive teams.
Game 2: DLSU def. UP, 27-25 25-11 25-17
This game was about DLSU avenging their loss to the Lady Maroons in the first round, and the UP team wanting to return to Final Four contention by defeating the defending champions. DLSU also wanted to cement their position and inch closer to a twice-to-beat advantage.
Set 1 saw a DLSU team take command early from the service line. The tough serving allowed Kim Fajardo to establish her tempo. More importantly, it got the left side of DLSU involved right away. UP would not go away as their transition game also showed why they are a tough out for anyone. Tots Carlos and Isa Molde showed strength and touch as they found the floor of DLSU to score. The lead was only two going into the second TTO 16-14, DLSU still having a slight lead. DLSU played steady, but UP was a little more volatile. I say that because the Lady Maroons would go on a run to take a small lead, then implode on a service error. Back and forth they went till they were tied at 24. DLSU would win the set by virtue of the breaks of the game. The Lady Spikers had their first match point at 26-25. It only took one match point as they threw the last attack and got the point. The set ended 27-25 for the Lady Spikers.
Set 2 saw DLSU lead from start to finish. The lead gradually increased from the first TTO, 8-5, to the second TTO 16-8. The Lady Spikers used a combination of service pressure, left side production and the veteran savvy of Kim Fajardo to run offensive recognition when running a transition attack. The example was when Kim saw the blocking formation of UP not yet formed due to a defensive scramble, and ran a double quick attack to Kim Dy who was in the opposite slot. UP was not expecting it and could not defend it either. Great recognition by the DLSU setter. UP would never recover under the service pressure and dropped the set 25-11. DLSU had a 12-5 edge in attacks and 3-0 in the service ace category.
Set 3 saw a competitive game as they reached the first TTO 8-6, DLSU with the lead. As the teams headed for the second TTO, DLSU still held the lead 16-12 but the service pressure began to once again take its toll on the Lady Maroon passing game. This severely limited their offense and they could not reciprocate the pressure on the DLSU defense enough to affect Lady Spikers’ transition game. UP finally bowed out in the set 25-17, losing in straight sets.
What we saw here was a DLSU team fire on all cylinders and a UP team that didn’t have enough cylinders firing. I have often criticized the DLSU left side hitters as lacking production, and they have showed what kind of team they are when the left side is productive. Des Cheng and Tine Tiamzon combined for 22 kills, 11 apiece. Kim Dy had 11, but that is expected from the prolific right side hitter. The main weapon today was Major Baron in the middle. She finished with 16 points. Great production from the middle slot. The key to her stat line were six aces, to go along with 7 kills and three blocks. DLSU showed championship form against a scary UP team that has the ability to beat any of the top tier teams.