Far Eastern University showed nerves of steel coming back from a five-point deficit in the fifth set with a gutsy closing run to shoot down Ateneo de Manila University, 19-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-20, 15-9, in the 80th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament Sunday at the MOA Arena.
Toni Basas and graduating hitter Bernadeth Pons delivered at crunch time as the Lady Tams joined other opening day winners defending back-to-back champion De La Salle University, University of the Philippines and National University.
“That’s a very good birthday gift. ‘Yung first game, first win,” said FEU coach George Pascua, who will be celebrating his 46th birthday Monday.
The victory also ended FEU’s losing skid against the Lady Eagles since they last prevailed over Ateneo in the second round of Season 75.
Pons scored 12 of her 14 points on kills and was active at floor defense with 16 excellent receptions and 13 digs while Basas finished with 14 markers with six coming of the Morayta-based squad's 20 aces.
The Lady Tams started on the wrong foot in the fifth set after forcing a deciding frame with a scorching run midway in the fourth as Ateneo locked down on its net defense while Jho Maraguinot provided the offensive fire to build an early 6-1 lead.
“Sabi ko di natatapos ang volleyball ng 6-1. Yung maturity nandoon kasi kilala ko na players ko. Alam na nilang i-handle kasi ini-ensayo nila yun kaya confident ako,” said Pascua, who replaced Shaq Delos Santos during the offseason.
FEU proved to be a tough nut to crack, tying the frame at six point apiece. Maraguinot put Ateneo back at the helm, 9-7, on back-to-back hits.
Maraguinot sent her service straight to the net that sparked the comeback of the Lady Tams. Basas scored two aces followed by an Ateneo error to give FEU a 12-9 edge.
Pons put the Lady Tams at set point, 14-9, on a down the line kill before Kat Tolentino sent her attack long to surrender the match.
Maraguinot pumped in 21 points with 19 coming off kills while adding 11 excellent receptions for the Lady Eagles. Tolentino got 14 markers and Season 79 Rookie of the Year Jules Samonte posted nine for Ateneo, which will face NU on Wednesday.
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