Canino-less Lady Archers survive pesky Lady Maroons in four sets

DLSU LADY ARCHERS

Games on Tuesday(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)10 a.m. — AdU vs FEU (men)12 noon — DLSU vs UE (men)2 p.m. — AdU vs FEU (women)4 p.m. — DLSU vs UE (women)

REIGNING champion De La Salle University (DLSU), without injured ace Angel Canino, braved on and withstood a University of the Philippines storm, 26-24, 25-20, 24-26, 27-25, to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four spot in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Spikers felt the absence of their reigning Most Valuable Player as they engaged in gritty dogfight all match long before flaunting their championship pedigree in the clutch, highlighted by a scintillating comeback in the fourth set for the win. On the verge of allowing a decider with a 22-24 deficit, DLSU launched a searing 5-1 finishing kick to seal the deal in two hours and 17 minutes behind the heroics of Shevana Laput and Alleiah Malaluan.

Stepping up big time in the absence of Ms. Canino — who still showed up in uniform despite a sling on her right arm following an off-court accident — Ms. Malaluan fired a season-high 17 points on 16 attacks, none bigger than a flurry in the fourth set.

Ms. Laput led the way with 21 while Princess Maicah Larroza also rose to the occasion with 12 points as La Salle climbed to 8-1 to move closer to the Final Four featuring No. 1 University of Santo Tomas (9-1) as the only qualified team so far.

De La Salle along with National University (NU), at 8-2, have inside tracks to follow suit as they have assured a playoff for a spot in case of a tie with each other or other chasing squads.

The Lady Spikers provided more than they were asked for to fill the massive hole left by the super sophomore Ms. Canino with an average of 16.3 points in their first eight games.

As Ms. Laput started De La Salle’s defiance sans their ace, Ms. Malaluan finished it by unloading back-to-back hammers to force a deuce at 24-all in the fourth.

She tied it anew at 25 after an answer from the Fighting Maroons before Ms. Larroza’s backrow hit and setter Julia Coronel’s block iced it in a thrilling comeback fashion with Amie Provido (8), Baby Jyne Soreño (8) and Thea Gagate also chipping in  help.

De La Salle’s pesky escape act in the fourth set only mirrored the hard-earned victories in the first two sets as UP even snatched the third with a similar extended duel to force a fourth set.

Irah Anika Jaboneta (18), Stephanie Bustrillo (16), Joan Monares (10) and Niña Ytang (10) headlined the valiant stand of the Fighting Maroons as they slid to 1-9. — John Bryan Ulanday