QUEZON CITY – It will be defending champion Rizal Technological University against guest team Philippine Merchant Marine School for the 15th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Women’s Volleyball championship after conclusion of the semifinals Wednesday (March 2) at the New Era University Gym. Both varsities will begin their best-of-three series this Monday (March 7) at the same venue starting at 10:00 AM.
The undefeated Lady Thunder of Coach Edgar Barroga had some anxious moments before finally eliminating fourth seed AMA University in the first semifinal, 25-17, 25-14 and 33-31. Despite being two sets down, the Lady Titans pushed RTU to the limit in the third but the pressure was too much to bear.
The third seed Lady Mariners advanced by upsetting second seed and many-time NAASCU champion Centro Escolar University, 25-17, 25-15 and 25-17. The win was a far cry from their first meeting last February won by the Lady Scorpions in straight sets.
“We studied their game very well and our training was effective,” said Coach Robert Buenamente. “We never played CEU before and I’m glad our players responded to our instructions on defense and minimizing our errors.”
In the Men’s Division, defending champion and fourth seed CEU pulled of a major shocker by downing erstwhile undefeated top seed PMMS in a five-set classic, 14-25, 25-17, 25-22, 18-25 and 18-16, thus preventing a double celebration and atoning for the Lady Scorpions’ earlier debacle. It was a fitting birthday gift for Scorpions coach Mark Anthony Santos who turned 32.
Tied at 16-16 in the decider set, a service error by the Mariners pushed the Scorpions ahead and it was immediately followed by another spiking error that sent the ball just a whisker out of bounds from the sideline, triggering a mad celebration by Scorpions. “I said two days ago that we would give a good fight and we delivered on our promise to the CEU community,” said Coach Santos, who as a rookie mentor steered the team all the way to the title last season.
The Scorpions will play familiar rival RTU, which survived season host New Era in a controversial five-setter, 25-22, 19-25, 20-25, 25-18 and 23-21. With the score tied at 19-19 in the fifth set, NEU Hunters Coach Manny Lagrada howled in protest of a non-call of a four-touch violation with the go-ahead point being awarded to the Blue Thunder.
After a 10-minute discussion, it was decided to replay the point. The Blue Thunder made sure and spiked their way to their third straight finals appearance, all against the Scorpions.
It was sweet revenge for the Blue Thunder who lost to the Hunters on opening day but was eventually forfeited in their favor due to the latter’s failure to submit required eligibility documents. “We adjusted our game by speeding it up and relying more on our quick attacks,” said Coach George Pascua.
“Our advantage should be our height and cohesion,” added Coach Pascua. “Even if CEU has many rookies, they remain a dangerous opponent so we must increase our intensity and desire to win the championship.”
The Men’s championship will also begin on Monday immediately after the Women’s match and will also be a best-of-three series. The semifinal losers will also engage in a one-match playoff for Third Place.