By Jerome Lagunzad
San Beda turned back Perpetual Help, 25-21, 25-15, 25-23, yesterday to clinch the first finals berth in the 93rd NCAA women’s volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
Top guns Nieza Viray and Cesca Racraquin conspired with Sattriani Espiritu and setter Rebecca Cuevas in delivering the goods especially in the third and decisive set where the second-seeded Lady Red Spikers displayed steely nerves to foil the third-ranked Lady Altas.
San Beda, still searching for its first-ever women’s volleyball title, will take on the winner of the other semis pairing between defending champion Arellano and Jose Rizal University which is being played at presstime.
Up 15-9 in the opening set, San Beda suddenly went cold as Perpetual Help tightened up its defensive screws and charged right back hard for a 21-18 lead capped by a Chinchin Gual hit.
Viray, however, found her groove just in time as she provided the spark in the Lady Red Spikers’ seven unanswered points to help them seize early control.
San Beda sustained its rejuvenated confidence in the second canto where it took a quick 12-4 advantage and never looked back.
In men’s play, defending champion St. Benilde outlasted San Beda in a marathon showdown, 25-16, 24-26, 25-19, 20-25, 20-18, to keep its title-retention bid alive.
Top gun Isaah Arda led their offensive charge with 23 points, 22 of them off kills, while Francis Basilan added 19 points and setter Kevin Magsino made 51 excellent sets to help the Blazers outduel the Red Spikers in a three-hour long encounter.
Mark Enciso tallied 22 points while Limuel Patenio added 14 and John Carlo Santos had 13 that all went down the drain with San Beda’s painful setback.
Up next for St. Benilde is No. 2 Perpetual Help on Tuesday, with the winner earning the right to face formidable Arellano in a best-of-three finals.