MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) University of the Philippines (UP) continues to show its readiness for the UAAP wars by turning back University of Santo Tomas (UST) in four sets in the gold medal game of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Collegiate Grand Slam on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Lady Maroons recovered from a sluggish second set to defeat the Golden Tigresses, 25-21, 16-25, 25-23, 25-19, to rule the inaugural edition of the collegiate tournament.
This is UP's second championship of the preseason, having also won the championship in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Collegiate Conference back in September.
"The motto of the day was fight. We fight to the end, and it worked. We fought until the end. Even when we were down, we just kept on reminding ourselves: we have to fight. That's what we came to do today," said UP coach Godfrey Okumu.
Tots Carlos, who did not play in the PVL Collegiate Conference due to injury, had 17 points to lead the Fighting Maroons, while rookie Nikki Magsarile added 11 points, and Marist Layug scored 10 including the match-winner.
"We've been waiting for (Carlos) to come back," said Okumu. "She's our captain, we've all been waiting for her. I think it's a good thing that she's back."
UP drew first blood but the Golden Tigresses recovered in the second set, as their second unit outplayed their counterparts.
In the nip-and-tuck third set, the Tigresses erased a 19-15 deficit due in part to UP's errors, and the two squads exchanged points from there with Milena Alessandrini forcing a 23-all count with a kill off the UP blockers.
But Eya Laure committed a service error, and UP's Justine Dorog uncorked the attack that sealed the deal.
Unfortunately for UP, Dorog hurt her right shoulder in the play, and did not return in the fourth set. UST raced to an 8-2 lead in Set 4, and appeared ready to force a deciding frame before their errors allowed the Lady Maroons to catch up.
"We were down, and then, it was a hard talk to pick ourselves up. But I'm happy that we were able to pick ourselves up, because that was our motto today," Okumu said.
UP won 11 of the next 12 points to seize control of the set, 13-9, and never looked back from there.
The Lady Maroons seized a 22-17 lead off a quick kill by Annie Gannaban before a service error by Magsarile kept UST alive. The Tigresses committed back-to-back errors, however, to put UP at match point.
An Alessandrini smash saved a point for UST, but Layug came through with a quick hit in the next rally to end the match in an hour and 57 minutes.
Alessandrini scored 13 points, while Eya Laure had 14 for the Tigresses.
Neither team was complete: UST was still without star spiker Sisi Rondina, while UP played sans Isa Molde and Marian Buitre, two key players in their run to the PVL Collegiate title.
In the first game, University of the East (UE) swept Far Eastern University, 27-25, 25-23, 25-16, to clinch the bronze medal in the Collegiate Grand Slam.
Meanne Mendrez led the way with 16 points built on 15 kills and an ace, while Judith Abil had 12 points and 10 excellent receptions for UE.
This was UE's first medal in a major tournament since UAAP Season 67.
"Our mindset coming into this match is that we want to finish the season on a positive note. We’re happy to win the bronze medal," said UE head coach Karl Dimaculangan.
Lycha Ebon was the lone bright spot with 10 points for the rookie-laden Lady Tamaraws, who settled for fourth place.
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