University of Sto. Tomas roared back at fancied National University and lived to fight another day, overcoming a 0-2 set deficit and hacking out a 21-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-12 thriller yesterday to force a winner-take-all match for the V-League Men’s Collegiate Challenge crown at the Paco Arena.
Rookies Josh Ybañez and Gboy De Vega played like veterans as they combined to stun the Bulldogs with the former unloading 25 points on top of 19 excellent digs and eight excellent receptions and the latter dropping 24 points he spiked with 15 receptions.
Dux Yambao, another top rookie, also played a crucial role in the win that halted the Bulldogs’ win run at eight and foiled their sweep bid. He produced 20 excellent sets on top of eight points built on five attacks, two kill blocks and an ace.
“Take every chance as a learning experience. Matuto kayo, you can identify what is effective and ituloy niyo. Kung ano ‘yung pagkukulang niyo, i-improve niyo,” UST head coach Odjie Mamon told his wards after NU took the first two sets.
“‘Yun lang, more on learning lang yung sinabi ko sa kanila nu’ng down kami. Matuto, matuto, matuto,” he added.
They dispute the crown tomorrow.
After UST bounced back with back-to-back set wins of their own, the Tiger Spikers kept the momentum of that big surge and led, 9-5, in the decider then padded it to 12-7 on an Ybañez’s kill.
The Bulldogs answered back with a four-point binge to threaten within one but De Vega scored from the backrow and Ybañez converted an ace to push UST at match point.
Michael Buddin scored off a ball touch to keep the Bulldogs in the hunt but Edlyn Paul Colinares foiled him in NU’s ensuing offense to cap the Tiger Spikers’ improbable comeback against a squad that toppled the seasoned teams in the recent Spikers’ Turf.
Buddin fired 27 points for NU, which also drew 18 points, 21 receptions and six digs from Nico Almendras while Kennry Malinis finished with 11 markers.
Meanwhile, Almendras and Ateneo’s Faith Nisperos shared MVP honors during awards rites with the former bagging his second trophy after steering the Bulldogs to the Spikers’ Turf crown.
Nisperos also took the 1st Best Outside Hitter award.
Other awardees were Buddin (2nd Best Outside Hitter) and fellow Bulldogs Obed Mukaba (2nd Best Middle Blocker), and Joshua Retamar (Best Setter), Ateneo’s Jettlee Gopio (1st Best Middle Blocker) and Ken Batas (Best Opposite Hitter); and John Phillip Pepito (Best Libero) of the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA.
Joining Nisperos in the Mythical team were Ateneo’s Vanie Gandler (2nd Best Outside Hitter) and Roma Doromal (Best Libero) while St. Benilde’s twin towers of Zamantha Nolasco and Michelle Gamit received the 1st and 2nd Best Middle Blocker awards, respectively, and the Adamson University pair of Trisha Tubu and Louie Romero copped the Best Opposite Hitter and Best Setter plums.