MANILA, Philippines — National University completed another perfect title run as it staved off University of Santo Tomas’ valiant effort, 25-17, 15-25, 25-20, 25-20, to sweep the Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Pre-Season Championship on Saturday night at Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
With the Lady Bulldogs pushed to their limits by the gritty Golden Tigresses trailing 13-16 in the fourth, Bella Belen took charge with five straight attacks to give her team a 21-17 lead.
Sheena Toring drilled a crucial drop before Belen nailed another hit to reach match point, 24-19. Angeline Poyos saved a point for UST but she committed a costly service error that allowed NU to clinch the crown.
The Lady Bulldogs leaned on the troika of Belen, Alyssa Solomon, and Vange Alinsug to capture their second straight SSL preseason title, extending their winning streak to 18 games since the league was inaugurated last year.
Belen, the first rookie MVP in UAAP women’s volleyball, led the way with 17 points all coming from attacks. Alinsug delivered 15 points, while Solomon, the reigning SSL MVP, had 14 points off 10 kills, three aces, and a block.
“Sa totoo lang, nakakabilib ‘yung UST. For two consecutive days, maganda nilaro nila. Kami pa ‘yung lumalabas na unprepared sa nilalaro nila,” said NU coach Norman Miguel. “Siguro, nandoon lang ‘yung konting maturity namin to surive the game.”
NU’s second-stringers emerged as the unsung heroes in Game 1 as they helped their team recover from a first-set loss before pulling off a 21-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-17 win in the series opener less than 24 hours ago.
In Game 2, it was UST’s bench turn to show up as substitute spiker Xyza Gula sparked the Tigresses to take the second set and equalize the match to one set apiece.
The Golden Tigresses continued to go toe-to-toe with the Lady Bulldogs as Gula kept them within striking distance, 20-21, in the third set. But Belen scored three of NU’s last four points for a 2-1 set lead.
NU’s last three championship runs were all sweeps as the Lady Bulldogs swept the UAAP Season 84 in June of last year followed by an eight-game sweep of last year’s Super League.
“‘Yung level of character ng bawat isa, nandoon. High school pa lang, champions na yang mga yan. Nagchampion pa sila sa UAAP women’s. ‘Yun ang bumubuhat sa kanila, ‘yung character talaga nila kaya ito ang resulta sa SSL,” said Miguel.
The Lady Bulldogs, now a two-time SSL champion, are on a mission to reclaim the UAAP crown next year after getting swept by the Angel Canino-led La Salle Lady Spikers in Season 85 last May.
UST played Game 2 without coach Kungfu Reyes, who called the shots for Chery Tiggo in the Premier Volleyball League at Philsports Arena. Deputy coach Lerma Giron took charge of the young Tigresses.
Gula powered the Tigresses with 18 points including three aces. Poyos scattered seven kills, three blocks, and an ace to finish with 11 points, while Regina Jurado had 10 markers only for them to settle for silver in the school’s first preseason Finals appearance in four years.