University of Sto. Tomas displayed composure under pressure to outlast Ateneo de Manila University, 20-25, 25-20, 25-16, 19-25, 16-14, Sunday in the semifinals best-of-three series decider of the Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Collegiate Conference at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The rematch of the recent UAAP Finals turned out to be an edge-of-your-seat affair as the action continued throughout the contest and the wild finish kept the crowd inside the arena up on their feet.
UST, which completed a series comeback, will take on Adamson University in the best-of-three Finals starting Wednesday.
Eya Laure, who traveled along with head coach Kungfu Reyes to Sta. Rosa, Laguna for a tour of duty in the ASEAN Grand Prix, scored 21 points anchored on 17 attacks, three aces and a kill block and added seven excellent receptions for an all-around game for UST. Rookie Imee Hernandez pounded all 14 of her points from spikes, mostly quick attacks while Janna Torres and EJ Laure got 14 and 12 markers, respectively, for the Espana-based squad.
The Tigresses held a 13-11 lead after a Maji Mangulabnan ace before the Lady Eagles made their own two-point run to knot things up capped by a hit from Ateneo rookie Faith Nisperos, who had been quiet in the fifth after an explosion in the fourth frame that forced a decider.
EJ Laure, who also had 13 digs and 10 receives, hammered an off the block kill to push UST at match point but Tigresses freshman Janna Torres was called for a net touch for the deuce. EJ Laure, who made her return to UST after two years following a shoulder injury, put the Tigresses back at match point with an off the block hit.
A scramble on the second ball between Ateneo libero Dani Ravena and Jaja Maraguinot put Ponggay Gaston, who just made her return for the Lady Eagles after skipping a couple of games to play for Ateneo in the UAAP Season 82 beach volleyball tournament, in a difficult hitting angle as she sent her attack long.
Nisperos posted 23 points with 22 coming off attacks while Erika Raagas and Jules Samonte had 10 and 11, respectively, for the Lady Eagles, who will face CSB in the best-of-three battle for third.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles