UAAP volleyball’s most memorable Finals five-setters (2010-19)
Mark Escarlote on Apr 22, 2020 06:36 PM
(Photo: Arvin Lim)
UAAP volleyball fans just love to see matches go the full five sets.
It means more action, more suspense and more drama as the game goes to an exciting climax.
What more if it happens in the Finals?
We’ve listed down some of the exciting five-set championship games in the past decade.
SEASON 74: FEU-UST Men’s Finals Game 2 (Feb. 29, 2012)
For the past four years prior to Season 74, University of Sto. Tomas dominated the men’s competition.
For two straight seasons, the Emil Lontoc-mentored Tigers had Far Eastern University’s number in the Finals.
In Season 74, the Tamaraws finally got their long-awaited revenge but not after surviving a war of attrition in Game 2.
FEU went down, 1-2, in the match with the Mark Alfafara and Salvador Depante-led Tigers determined to keep UST’s five-peat bid alive following a stinging straight-set defeat in the series opener.
The Tamaraws, who topped the eliminations, but was forced by De La Salle University to a do-or-die in the Final Four, fought back in the fourth behind JR Labrador and Arvin Avila to drag the match to a dramatic decider.
The fifth set went as close at it could get with FEU just keeping a slim lead heading into the final stretch. The Tams moved at championship point off a Labrador off the block hit only to see the Tigers save two match points on a middle attack by Season Most Valuable Player Jayson Ramos and a Depante crosscourt hit.
FEU coach George Pascua called time to stop the bleeding before setter Pitrus De Ocampo set up the then graduating Kirk Beliran for the finishing blow off a combination attack to complete the 25-27, 25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13, victory.
The Tams ended a four-year title drought for their 25th title overall.
SEASON 76: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 3 (March 12, 2014)
We all know how great Ateneo de Manila University was when they toppled the then four-peat-seeking and thrice-to-beat De La Salle University in the women’s Finals of UAAP Season 76.
But in the four games that two proud teams fought, Game 3 decided the fate of the series. Yes, the series didn’t end here, but it definitely shifted the momentum to the eventual champion Lady Eagles and broke the Lady Spikers’ will.
The Finals protagonists split the first two games with DLSU moving just a win away from extending its reign.
Ateneo took control of the first two sets, but the Lady Spikers were able to mount a comeback to claim the next two to set up a decisive fifth frame.
The race to the finish became thrilling as well as controversial.
It started out as a nip-and-tuck battle before DLSU built a 12-8 separation to move within three points from the crown. Drawing energy from crowd, the Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles answered with a 6-1 blitz to move at match point.
Ara Galang answered with a hit and a kill block to put the Taft-based squad at championship point. Valdez delivered at crunch time with a kill followed by a through the block kill by Michelle Morente for a 16-15 match point advantage.
Then came the controversial call in the last play.
DLSU setter Kim Fajardo was whistled for a double-contact as she tried to setup a play close to the net after a poor reception that ended the game, 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 17-15, as the shocked DLSU side held their hands in the air in disbelief.
It was the series’ backbreaker as Ateneo, with momentum on its side, finished off the Lady Spikers in straight sets in the series decider for the Lady Eagles’ breakthrough title and first of back-to-back crowns.
SEASON 78: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (April 27, 2016)
The then grand slam-seeking Ateneo Lady Eagles and DLSU Lady Spikers faced off in the Finals for the fifth straight time in Season 78.
Eyeing redemption after finishing second for two straights seasons, DLSU shocked favored Ateneo led by its graduating hero Valdez in the series opener.
The Lady Spikers were looking to finish off the Lady Eagles in Game 2. DLSU seemed to be on the right track when they took the first two sets.
But Valdez, the Season Most Valuable Player, carried Ateneo on her back as the Lady Eagles rallied in the next two frames to force a deciding frame.
With Valdez leading the way and momentum shifting on their side, the Lady Eagles were able to create a 10-7 separation.
DLSU closed the gap, 11-13, only to see Ateneo hammer down the final blows.
Jho Maraguinot scored an off the block kill before Amy Ahomiro turned back Majoy Baron to seal Ateneo’s 18-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11.
Valdez registered her then second-best scoring performance of 34 points including 32 kills.
But the feat just delayed DLSU’s redemption season as the Lady Spikers took Game 3 and knocked the crown off the Lady Eagles’ heads for a victorious sendoff to graduating stars Mika Reyes, Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo.
SEASON 79: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (May 6, 2017)
Just like the previous year, DLSU stared at an Ateneo squad determined to drag the Season 79 Finals series to a deciding battle.
The Lady Eagles were able take a 1-2 match advantage. The Lady Spikers regrouped in the fourth to put the match in another wild wind up.
Riding the momentum of its fourth set win, DLSU raced to an early 6-2 advantage and looked poised to go for the kill as the Lady Spikers stretched their advantage to 10-4.
Ateneo fought back, chipping away DLSU’s lead to close in, 9-12. Tin Tiamzon gave the Lady Spikers more breathing room only for Jho Maraguinot to cut DLSU’s lead to three once again.
A Majoy Baron quick attack pushed the Lady Spikers at championship point before Maraguinot threw in the white towel after sending her attack long as DLSU walked away with a 19-25, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18, 15-10, victory and a 10th overall title.
SEASON 79: Ateneo-NU Men's Finals series (May 2 and May 6, 2017)
It was the Ateneo Blue Eagles perfect season.
The Marck Espejo, Rex Intal, Josh Villanueva and Tony Koyfman bannered Blue Eagles completed a rare 16-0 season sweep.
But the Ateneo had to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to achieve the feat especially in the Finals series where the Blue Eagles needed stave off the gritty Bryan Bagunas and Fauzi Ismail-led NU Bulldogs in five sets twice.
And in both games, Ateneo had to comeback from a 1-2 match deficit.
Espejo dropped 29 points to lead the Blue Eagles to a 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, Game 1 win.
The Season MVP again went firing on all cylinders in Game 2 as he scored 27 points including a 25-of-49 attacking clip in Ateneo’s 18-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13, title-clincher.
Ateneo claimed its third straight crown.
SEASON 70: FEU-Adamson Women's Finals Game 3 (March 2, 2008)
When we talk about dramatic five-set finishes, the meeting between FEU and Adamson in Game 3 of Season 70 women’s will always be included in the classic list.
Yes, it happened 12 years ago. But hey, it deserves recognition.
The Lady Tams boasted of a deep roster of talents in Rachel Anne Daquis, Maica Morada, Season MVP Wendy Semana, Majo Cafranca, Anna Abanto and rookie Shaira Gonzales.
On the other hand, the Lady Falcons had Sang Laguilles, Angela Benting, Jill Gustillo, Michelle Segodine, prized libero Lizlee Ann Gata and Janet Serafica.
After splitting the first two games, Adamson came a set close to its first-ever crown in Game 3 after taking a 2-1 match lead.
But Daquis came alive in the fourth helping breathe new life to the Nes Pamilar-mentored Lady Tams.
The fifth frame started out close before FEU unleashed five unanswered points to turn a 2-4 deficit to a 7-4 lead. Adamson responded with two straight points to move within one, 7-6, only to allow the Lady Tams to again pull away.
Shirt-tugging Morada pushed FEU at match point, 14-8, off a kill before Benting saved a point for Adamson.
But a late substitution on Segodine, who was supposed to take serve, by service specialist Jennifer Hiponia proved to be fatal. Hiponia under tremendous pressure put too much power on her serve as FEU escaped with a 14-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 15-9, victory and its 29th title overall.
SEASON 80: Ateneo-FEU men’s Final Four (April 21, 2018)
It wasn’t a Finals game but the performance of Marck Espejo in this historic Final Four battle against FEU in Season 80 made this five-set clash worth mentioning.
The then four-peat-seeking Ateneo was pitted against twice-to-beat Tamaraws.
Espejo rewrote history as he carried the Blue Eagles on his back with a 55-point game to escape with a 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9, win that forced a do-or-die match.
The five-time MVP had a monster production of 47 attacks, six kill blocks and two aces. He scored 11 of Ateneo’s fifth set output.
The Blue Eagles eventually clinched the last Finals spot but were dethroned by the Bulldogs.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles