Golden Spikers sweep Tamaraws to force a rubber match

JOSH YBAÑEZ — UAAP MEDIA TEAM/NICOLE HERNANDEZ

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas (UST) flaunted its veteran pedigree and playoff poise with an emphatic 25-23, 25-19, 28-26 sweep of the top-ranked and twice-to-beat Far Eastern University (FEU) to force a rubber match in the UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball Final Four on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Reigning MVP Josh Ybañez showed the way by firing 16 points on 15 hits with 13 receptions and six digs as the No. 4 Golden Spikers, who finished runner-up to three-time champion National University (NU) last season, finally scored one on the Tamaraws after being swept in their two elimination-round games.

Mr. Ybañez’s left baseline hit iced the deal for the Golden Spikers while captain Gboy De Vega kept them afloat with three straight points beforehand in the extended set to deny the FEU Tamaraws a quick finals entry.

Game 2 is on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum with the winner marching on to the best-of-three championship series this weekend against either No. 2 seed National University or De La Salle. University

NU and De La Salle begin their own duel also on Wednesday after a playoff on Saturday won by the Bulldogs in five thrilling sets, 19-25, 25-21, 25-13, 21-25, 16-14, to clinch the last twice-to-beat bonus.

And the Golden Spikers, with help from John Sherwin Umandal (14), Edlyn Paul Colinares (10) and De Vega (10), put out a statement win to stay in that picture.

Santo Tomas spikers obliged, keeping FEU at bay amid its near comeback from 21-23 deficit in the third set before Mr. De Vega restored order with consecutive hits for the match point at 27-26.

Mr. Ybañez then sealed it.

Zhydryx Saavedra and Martin Bugaoan had 14 and 10 points, respectively, to pace FEU in a wild sweeping loss to lose its advantage and allow a KO game.

It was a reversal of roles for the Tamaraws, whose women’s counterparts at No. 4 seed pulled off a 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 stunner of No. 1 NU to force Game 2.

Second-seeded Santo Tomas and reigning champion De La Salle, at No. 3, were to play at press time in the other pairing of the women’s Final Four. — John Bryan Ulanday