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HomeSportWith nerves of steel, NU Lady Bulldogs reclaim UAAP crown

With nerves of steel, NU Lady Bulldogs reclaim UAAP crown


NU Lady Bulldogs the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball championship UST Tigresses UAAP Finals

NU Lady Bulldogs celebrate after winning the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball championship with a sweep of UST Tigresses. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

It all came down to that third frame Wednesday night, with National University (NU) facing set point in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament.

Bella Belen, who had earlier won her second MVP trophy, steeled the Lady Bulldogs shaken resolve with a kill to extend the set.

But Xyza Gula, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) dynamo who again unloaded fireworks off the bench and steered the Tigresses to a confidence-inflating second set victory, put her team on the verge of a crucial set win with another point. Belen responded with back-to-back kills. And when Gula tried to resuscitate the Tigresses’ hopes, NU middle blocker Sheena Toring shut her down. That shut down UST for good, too.

Pouncing on the Tigresses’ winded morale, the Lady Bulldogs dominated the fourth set and sealed a 25-23, 23-25, 27-25, 25-16, victory in front of 22,515 fans at Mall of Asia Arena to complete their redemption tour and capture a second crown in three years.

“Ever since, this team’s character has really been solid,” coach Norman Miguel said after the game. “When they say the players say they will bounce back, they will truly bounce back. That’s what sets [the Lady Bulldogs] apart from the rest.”

Alyssa Solomon proved her mettle anew in Game 2, firing 27 points on a 20-of-37 kill rate while also scoring off four blocks and three aces. Throw in her 17 points in NU’s Game 1 victory and Solomon was an easy choice for Finals MVP.

“This was now or never,” Solomon said. “My mindset before the game was to play my best [so] this would be our last game this season.”

Belen added 19 points, 11 digs, and nine receptions for NU, which also got 13 points from Vange Alinsug and 11 from Toring.

The victory of the women’s squad made it a golden double for NU on Wednesday as the men’s team extended its reign to a fourth year after finishing off UST in their title showdown earlier in the day.

Fight theme

NU has been in the Finals the last three seasons, losing last year’s championship tussle with the La Salle Lady Spikers. That defeat spurred the Lady Bulldogs, who made redemption their fight theme this season. “The journey wasn’t easy,” Miguel said. “We faced very good teams. We had losses … but our desire to redeem [ourselves and win] the title was always whole and that made us work hard.”

Santo Tomas was already handicapped by the injury to Angge Poyos, who rolled her ankle in Game 1 and started the game on one good leg. She scored a point in a very limited role. But the spunk and heart that delivered the young and undersized Tigresses to a stunning Finals appearance no one saw coming looked ready to drag the Lady Bulldogs to a deciding game.



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NU, however, proved too composed even when cornered at a critical point of the match.





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