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UAAP Volleyball: DLSU Lady Spikers bounce back againts Lady Eagles

Take game 1 of now virtual best of three series

MANILA, Philippines – A back-to-form La Salle rebounded mightily from its previous setback to upset-conscious Ateneo, hacking out a vengeful 25-14, 25-20, 19-25, 26-24 victory to close in on the UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball title Saturday at a packed Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Stung by their shocking loss last Wednesday, the Lady Spikers got back hard at the Lady Eagles and imposed their dominance in the net as they picked up the pivotal triumph before a season-high crowd of 17, 501 fans.

The Lady Spikers will try to put the finishing touches to their four-peat bid on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. La Salle will be gunning for only the first four-string crown in the UAAP since Far Eastern U achieved the feat in the 1970s.

"Our mindset is focused on revenge," said DLSU star Ara Galang, who topscored with 17 points, said in Filipino. "We lost the first game and we don't want a repeat of that, we won't let them take away our crown."

The Lady Eagles had pricked the Lady Spikers' ego by handing the three-peat champions their first setback in 30 games via a 17-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-20 decision at the start of the finals. That effectively nullified DLSU's thrice-to-beat advantage and reduced this duel to a race-to-two affair.

"That served as a wakeup call, forcing the team to strive harder and go all-out in this game," said DLSU coach Ramil de Jesus.

Playing with a sense of urgency, the Lady Spikers immediately seized control and opened a 23-13 lead in the first inning through nearly unstoppable attacks by Galang, Mika Reyes, and Abi Marano.

It was basically the same story in the second, where the La Sallians cruised to a 22-15 tear.

Ateneo began to put up a fight by the third, extricating from a 12-12 standoff to establish a 22-16 upperhand and holding on to steal the set.

The Lady Eagles threatened further in the fourth, rallying from a 21-24 deficit to knot it at 24-all pouncing on a service error by DLSU's Cyd Demecillo and back-to-back aces by MVP Alyssa Valdez. The Ateneo captain, however, bungled the next service, handing La Salle match point.

"We can say the real La Salle is back. Had we not relaxed in the third, it could have been a straight set win," said de Jesus.

"We didn't play with our mantra heart-strong," said Ateneo skipper Valdez, who paced the team with 15.

Ateneo's bid was hurt by the sprain suffered by libero Dennise Lazaro in the first. The tourney's Best Digger and Best Receiver played less than usual.

"Den-den is basically the life of our team. Without her, we couldn't receive so we didn't have a good first ball," said Valdez of Lazaro, who however had 11 excellent digs and eight excellent receptions.

Galang was backstopped by Reyes' 14, Marano's 11 and Demecillo's six while Best Setter Kim Fajardo had 26 excellent sets.

"Our distribution was good this time because we received better than in the first game. But still, Ateneo still had the edge with their power in serving," said de Jesus, citing the 12 aces that the Lady Eagles pulled off against them. (From