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UP survives tough UE

Joel Orellana

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University of the Philippines averted a major collapse and downed University of the East, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-11, to stay on track of a Final Four berth in Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s volleyball tournament on Wednesday at the FilOil Arena.

Nothing comes easy for us and we have to work hard on every single point

Marian Buitse, who had a total of 17 points in her first nine games, tallied a season-best 19 points, 16 on attacks and three blocks, to lead the undermanned Lady Maroons to a crucial win and tie University of Santo Tomas at fourth spot with 6-4 win-loss mark.

Jesma Ramos and Maristella Layug also came up big for UP and teamed up with Buitre, Tots Carlos, Ayel Estranero and Justine Dorog as the Lady Maroons survived the absence of Isa Molde who sat the game out due to a left ankle injury she suffered in their three-set loss to Ateneo.

“It was hard. Nothing comes easy for us and we have to work hard on every single point.

But a win is a win and I’m happy we got it,” said UP head coach Godfrey Okumu.

“UE always plays hard against us. That team has been together for four years and they have a very good libero (Kath Arado). And that’s their strength, their good floor defense,” he added.

Buitre gave the Lady Maroons a comfortable 8-4 spread in the final set but Mean Mendrez led a UE uprising and threatened at 9-10.

But Carlos blocked the attack of UE’s Zilfa Olarve to stop the run, 11-9, and Ramos added a service ace for the Diliman-based team, 12-9. Carlos sealed the win for UP with an attack.

“We won struggling and there is still room for improvement,” said Buitre, who also added 17 excellent digs.

“As a senior, if they need me, I’m just here for them whichever team we face. As what coaches tell us, we treat each game as a championship game. That’s our mindset always,” she added.

Carlos added 16 points, 13 on attacks, while Layug contributed 15 for UP. Dorog and Estranero each had six but their steady plays kept the Lady Maroons in the game as UE tried to pull off an upset.

Without Molde, Okumu went to Buitre to give UP another scoring option while Ramos played quality minutes particularly in the opening set where the Lady Maroons rallied from a 20-23 deficit and scored the last five points to steal the first set, 25-23.

But the Lady Warriors came back in the second set and capitalized UP’s nine errors to tie the match with a 25-20 set win.

UE had the momentum in the third frame and led 5-0 but Buitre and Carlos joined hands for a 25-23 win and a 2-1 set lead.

The Lady Warriors once again started the fourth set strong with an 8-5 lead and this time took care of their lead behind Mean Mendrez, 26-24, to set the match to a deciding fifth set.

Mendrez had 23 while Judith Abil finished 22 for the Lady Warriors, who dropped to 2-8 in the team standings and a loss away of kissing their Final Four hopes goodbye.

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