National University is just a win away from adding the Shakey’s Super League Collegiate Pre-season Championship title to its fast-growing collection.
Banking on experience and core of grizzled veterans, the Lady Bulldogs turned back a young but determined University of Santo Tomas side, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17, in the knockout semifinal to book a championship seat on Friday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
NU remained unbeaten in seven starts as it secured its spot in the winner-take-all Final on 19 November against the survivor between De La Salle University and Adamson University in the other semis clash being played as of press time.
However, the Lady Bulldogs needed to sweat it out first against the Tigresses, who made a valiant stand despite missing the services of veteran Eya Laure who is currently on vacation.
“I just reminded the team to work harder, that we can’t afford to give UST momentum and their young players to gain confidence,” said NU coach Karl Dimaculangan, whose squad went up 21-17 in the second set but allowed UST to mount a comeback to tie the match.
“I think it’s also a big advantage that we have experienced players that know what to do in tight situations,” he added.
NU regained control of the match after outlasting the Tigresses in the tight third frame. The Lady Bulldogs uncorked three straight points to push their lead to 23-19 after UST came close to one.
UST rookie Angeli Abellana scored in the next play but Sheena Toring closed the set with a hit following Tigresses freshman Xyza Gula’s service error.
The Lady Bulldogs opened a comfortable cushion in the fourth frame that ballooned to 22-16. Back-to-back errors by UST put NU at match point before Bella Belen sealed the victory with a crosscourt hit.
Belen led the Lady Bulldogs with 24 points, Alyssa Solomon added 19 points while Ces Robles and Eri Pangilinan chipped in 15 each. Sheena Toring got 12 points for NU.
The Tigresses, who saw Gula and Abellana drop 21 and 20 points, respectively, can still salvage a podium finish next week against the loser in the other semis pairing.
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines outlasted Far Eastern University in grueling five sets, 26-24, 28-26, 27-29, 22-25, 15-8, to move on to the battle for fifth in the classification round.