The National University Bulldogs avoided the upset axe and defeated the Adamson Falcons in four sets, 19-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23 at the SM MoA Arena on Wednesday. They arrange a rematch with the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the finals.
The Bulldogs relied on their strong attackers to overcome the relentless floor defense and cat-quick movements of the Adamson side. Adamson was able to build momentum in the latter part of the first set, taking a five-point lead. However, NU trimmed the lead and came as close as 18-19. The Falcons regrouped quickly to seal the win in the first set.
Adamson started strong again in the second set, but NU countered with strong attacks. The Bulldogs scored 12 of the next 14 points to take a 21-16 advantage against the Falcons. NU never relinquished the lead to even the match.
In the third set, bad luck struck the Falcons as setter Nico Ramirez injured his left shoulder when he crashed into the announcer’s table. Without their primary playmaker, the Falcons were not able to generate good plays and offense en route to surrendering the third frame to NU. In the fourth set, Adamson seemingly found another leader in replacement setter Bryan Saraza. Down 12-16 in the fourth, Saraza rallied the Falcons back to overtake NU at 21-18. NU used its height and tremendous blocking to tie the game at 21. From this point on, both teams traded points. NU went back to its blocking to take the match.
Five NU spikers scored in double digits in the winning cause. Rookie James Natividad had 15 points, Bryan Bagunas poured 14, and Ruben Baysac contributed 13. Sophomores Madz Gampong and Kim Malabunga chipped in 12 and 11 markers, respectively.
Middle hitters Dave Pletado and Pao Pablico posted 14 points each for Adamson. Graduating Bryan Saraza played his last UAAP match, recording four points and 20 excellent sets.
Game 1 in the best-of-three finals between NU and Ateneo begin on Saturday, 12 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.