UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help System Dalta outlasted College of Saint Benilde 25-17, 27-29, 19-25, 26-24, 16-14, in a thrilling do-or-die duel to make a return stint to the Finals last night in the NCAA women’s volleyball Final Four at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Cindy Imbo fired a season-high 32 points, including the match-clinching kill that completed the Lady Altas’ victory over the top-ranked Lady Blazers.
The last team to enter the semifinals, Perpetual Help winner will face defending two-time champion Arellano University in best-of-three championship series starting Friday at 4 p.m.
The match was slowly slipping away in the fourth frame after trailing 11-22, as well as in the fifth when they were down, 7-10, the Lady Altas simply refused to lose behind their leader Imbo, who is on her final season.
“Mental toughness. Hangga’t hindi pa tapos ang laban, hindi tayo titigil at titigil sa kakalaban,” said Perpetual Help coach Macky Cariño.
“Puso. Bilib ako kay Cindy,” he added on Imbo, who also collected 14 digs and 11 receptions.
The Lady Altas rallied from eight points down late in the fourth set to defeat the Lady Blazers, 25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, last Friday to force the winner-take-all.
Picking up from where they left off last week, the Lady Altas won the opening set before coach Jerry Yee made adjustments in the second frame by inserting Fel Cui for Matet Pablo.
It worked wonders for Lady Blazers, leveling the match at one set apiece after Cui ended the extended second set with a service ace.
St. Benilde raced to a 15-2 lead in the third and overcame a Perpetual Help uprising to take a 2-1 set advantage.
The last time the Lady Blazers made it to the Finals was in 2014, losing to the Lady Chiefs, who then won their breakthough crown.
Rachel Austero paced the Lady Blazers with 17 hits.
In the men’s step-ladder semis, Ruvince Abrot scored all but one of his 12 points from spikes as second-ranked St. Benilde ousted No. 4 Emilio Aguinaldo College, 25-18, 25-23, 25-20, to arrange a Finals duel with titleholder Perpetual Help.
A rematch of their championship duel two years ago, the Blazers and the Altas, who are undefeated in nine elimination round matches, open their best-of-three series at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Coach Arnold Laniog, who steered St. Benilde to its lone title in 2017 behind power-hitting John Vic de Guzman, was satisfied the way his troops delivered the straight sets win.
“Naging aggressive ang mga atake namin,” said Laniog. “Naging erratic kami sa second set. But then, naging matiyaga ang mga players ko.”