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La Salle downs rival Ateneo in 5-set thriller, nears twice-to-beat perk

La Salle downs rival Ateneo in 5-set thriller, nears twice-to-beat perk

STREAKING. Super rookie Leiah Malaluan stars in La Salle's five-set win over rival Ateneo.

UAAP Season 84 Media Team

Super rookie Leiah Malaluan and veteran spiker Jolina dela Cruz lead La Salle's thrilling five-set win over rival Ateneo as the Lady Spikers get within one win of a UAAP Final Four twice-to-beat advantage

MANILA, Philippines – The La Salle Lady Spikers continued their strong run through the UAAP Season 84 as they inched closer to a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four off a five-set marathon against heated rival Ateneo Blue Eagles, 19-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, June 7.

Jyne Soreño – returning as a spiker after a libero stint – and super rookie Leiah Malaluan led the way with 17 points apiece as Mars Alba steered the offense with 22 excellent sets.

Jolina dela Cruz added 14 points with 15 excellent receptions while Thea Gagate scored 12 as La Salle rose to a 10-3 record.

Despite staying strong for much of the fifth set after falling in the fourth, Ateneo lost composure in the clutch after rookie AC Miner committed back-to-back net touches to give La Salle match point at 14-10.

Although Nisperos and Takako Fujimoto saved two match points, the Lady Spikers’ gap was just too large to close up as Jyne Soreño ended the match with an off-the-block hit to send the defending champions down to a 7-6 slate.

“Our message is simple: You have to want it,” said La Salle assistant coach Benson Bocboc in Filipino. “If we want it more, we’ll get it. Thankfully, the players really wanted to win, and they responded well.”

Faith Nisperos, fresh off a career-high 31-point explosion in another five-set thriller against fifth-ranked Adamson, went down swinging against La Salle with 29 points off 27 attacks. Middle blocker Erika Raagas notched a season-high 17 points, while Vanie Gandler chipped in 10.

La Salle can formally clinch a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs with a win against Adamson on Thursday, June 9, 12:30 pm.

Meanwhile, Ateneo aims to book the last Final Four ticket with a Battle of Katipunan victory against the UP Fighting Maroons at 6:30 pm. –