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Image Courtesy of: UST Golden Tigresses and Spikers

THE University of Santo Tomas made a powerful statement in the 2023 Shakey’s Super League (SSL) Collegiate Pre-Season Championship by sweeping Letran with scores of 25-21, 25-23, 25-14 on Monday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.

This victory not only kept UST unbeaten but also spoiled the debut of Letran’s new coach Oliver Almadro.

The Golden Tigresses exhibited their prowess by securing two closely contested sets before delivering a dominant performance in the third set to claim their second consecutive win in Pool A of the 16-team SSL.

Rising star Angeline Poyos once again shone with 13 points, featuring 11 successful attacks, an ace, and a block, as UST efficiently handled Letran. The match concluded in just 81 minutes, following UST’s earlier four-set victory over the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.

Contributing to the team’s success, Xyza Gula added nine points, while setter Cassie Carballo displayed her versatility with seven points, including four aces. Regina Jurado and Kyla Cordora also made significant contributions with seven points each in UST’s well-rounded offensive strategy.

Coach Kungfu Reyes emphasized that there’s room for improvement, stating, “Hindi pa kami satisfied. Kailangan bigyan pa namin ng diin. Syempre, a win is a win pero ‘yung level ng nilalaro namin, kailangan itaas pa” (We’re not satisfied yet. We need to emphasize certain areas. Of course, a win is a win, but we need to elevate our level of play).

With one game remaining in the preliminary round, UST strengthened its quarterfinal prospects. Their last opponent in Pool B of SSL Season 2, presented in cooperation with the Commission on Higher Education and the Philippine Sports Commission, is the two-time NCAA champion College of St. Benilde, which is yet to make its debut.

In their opening match, UST faced Perpetual and secured a 25-12, 21-25, 25-15, 25-21 victory, although they faced an early challenge against Letran, coached by former Ateneo mentor Almadro. During a tense moment with a 19-20 deficit, UST rallied and finished strong with a 6-1 run, highlighted by Gula’s ace, to claim the first set with a score of 25-21.

In the second set, UST maintained control with a 22-18 lead, but Letran mounted a comeback, narrowing the gap to 23-24 with a powerful shot from Marie Nitura from the backrow. Once again, Gula came to the rescue, using a soft touch off the block to secure a 2-0 lead.

UST’s dominance carried into the third set, where they raced to an impressive 18-8 start, ultimately winning by a convincing 11-point margin.

Marie Nitura led the scoring for the Lady Knights with 12 points, and they look to bounce back with a win against CSB next Saturday.

All SSL games are accessible live and on-demand through the social media pages of Plus Network and SSL, with Solar Sports, Blast TV, and Aliw Channel 23 serving as TV partners. (ai/mnm)