Lady Tams turn back Lady Eagles

FAR Eastern University overcame a lackluster first and fourth set effort to beat Ateneo, 10-25, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25, 15-8, sending their Final Four clash to a deciding game in the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament last night before 11,141 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Trailing 3-5 in the fifth, the Lady Tamaraws turned to France Ronquillo and Nette Villareal to post a 7-5 edge.

Toughened by its five-setter matches all-season long, FEU hung on, with skipper Jerrili Malabanan delivering the key hits late in the deciding frame to live and fight for another day.

The Lady Tamaraws erased the Lady Eagles’ twice-to-beat advantage, as the two teams, facing in the Final Four for the third straight year, duke it out for one final time for spot in the title round on Wednesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

University of Santo Tomas shoots for first championship berth - and the first since 2010-11 season - against defending champion La Salle at 4 p.m. today at the same Pasay venue.

Earlier, FEU made it to the men’s finals for the first time in six years after a 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 win over Ateneo.

Jude Garcia had 14 points, including the match-clinching smash that ended the long Tamaraws’ drought, and 13 digs, JP Bugaoan had three blocks for a 13-point outing, while skipper Richard Solis had 12 markers.

The Lady Eagles, pouncing on their opponents’ weak reception, cruised to an opening set win.

Ateneo crumbled late in the second frame, as middles Cza Carandang and Villareal delivered the goods for FEU to tie the match at one set apiece.

The Lady Tamaraws overcame Kat Tolentino’s onslaught late in the third to take a 2-1 set lead before the Lady Eagles rediscovered their groove in fourth frame, finding a weak-receiving Heather Guino-o an easy target and building a commanding 23-11 advantage to extend the match.

FEU, the 25-time champions but last ruled the roost in the 2011-12 season, is glad to be back in the title round, which is long overdue coming.      It also erased the pain of last season, as the Tamaraws were eliminated by the Marck Espejo-led Blue Eagles despite having a twice-to-beat advantage.

Without Espejo, FEU won’t be denied of this chance of reclaiming lost glory.

“Salamat sa maraming naniniwala. Salamat sa maraming blessings,” said Tamaraws coach Rei Diaz. “Ang lagi naming mindset eh maging uhaw. Sinimulan na namin eh dapat walang titigil. Walang titigil.”

FEU will face the winner of the other Final Four match-up between titleholder and twice-to-beat National University and No. 4 Adamson at 12 noon today.