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UST spikers grab Final Four berth

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University of Santo Tomas pulled its act together just in time, rallying from a two-set deficit to beat National University, 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-12, yesterday and complete the Final Four cast in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Tigresses were sluggish in first two sets allowing the Lady Bulldogs to take the initiative and pulled to within a set from securing a semis berth.

But the Tigresses, inspired by the performance of the small but high-leaping Sisi Rondina, started to impose their will, winning the tight third set and never looked back.

UST’s win was its 9th in 14 games, enough to secure the No. 3 position with Far Eastern University settling for No. 4 with an 8-6 card.

Already in the semis are defending champion La Salle and Ateneo – both teams were playing for the top seeding at presstime. They are toting similar 11-2 records.

This marks the first time that UST will be playing in the Final Four since 2012.

UST, however, refused to celebrate its mini success after bettering its 6th place finish last year.

Coach Kungfu Reyes said making it to Final Four is already an achievement but they can’t afford to take it easy despite their impressive showing in the second round.

“Ang hirap ng larong ito, pero dito lumabas talaga yung Final Four material ng mga tropa ko,” said Reyes, referring to his stalwarts.

“Sabi ko nga, patayan na tong larong to eh. Lalaban kami hanggang dulo. Good thing naman at nagawa namin,” he added.

UST encountered some precarious moments in the deciding set when NU scored three straight points to trim the Tigresses’ 12-8 lead to 12-11.

But Rondina rose to the occasion again, coming through with a spectacular combination play with Dim Pacres sealing the win with a corner spike.

Rondina pumped in 22 points, all from attacks, while EJ Laure also had 22 points on 18 kills and three aces.

The duo overshadowed the towering Jaja Santiago, who exploded for 20 points including 25 attacks ad four aces for NU in a futile effort.

But UST supporters got scared when Laure fell awkwardly following a spike.

But the charming daughter of a former PBA player drew cheers when she stood up with tears in her eyes.