University of the Philippines nailed its first big volleyball championship in a long while in style, blowing a 2-0 set lead and an 8-0 bulge in the third then rallying from six-point deficits in the decider to hack out an improbable 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 20-25, 15-13 victory over a stunned Far Eastern U side before a huge crowd at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan Wednesday.
With the crown slowly slipping off their fingers, the Lady Maroons put one big stand rarely seen from a crew playing in their first championship series, wiping out a 7-13 deficit in the fifth with key hits from the very player who had earlier claimed the MVP honors in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference.
Isa Molde fired away bombs that the Lady Tams had failed to stop, including two that anchored their incredible comeback to within, 12-13. The Lady Maroons forced a tie on a block off Lycha Ebon then Molde rammed in another vicious kill to put the team within championship point.
In a bizarre ending, skipper Ma. Arielle Estranero clinched it for the Diliman-based school with hardly an effort as her serve sailed over the net and dropped into the middle of FEU's court with no Lady Tam, visibly stunned by their rivals' fightback, putting an effort to receive it.
That triggered a frenzied celebration on UP's court with Estranero dropping to the floor and the rest whopping it up as the Lady Maroons claimed their first volley championship in 36 long years. UP last won a volley title in the UAAP in 1982.
While the victory - and the championship - proved sweeter the second time around for UP, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Lady Tams, who had looked forward to forcing a decider after bouncing from two sets down and 0-8 in the third and seizing a 13-7 lead in the decider despite playing without injured ace player Celine Domingo.
"Very happy, it feels like a UAAP championship," said Molde, who had earlier also bested the best in the fold by bagging the MVP crown after norming 15.14 points in the elims while 30.25 percent success rate in attacks ad 0.48 service ace per set.
But it was her Finals performance that made her stand out from the rest.
"It's not only me, but all of us. We raised the level of our respective games," said Molde, who fired 16 points in leading the team to a come-from-behind 14-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-18, 15-5 victory in Game One last Sunday.
Adamson took third place honors as it subdued UST, 15-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19. The Tigresses actually won Game One, 25-20, 27-29, 13-25, 25-19, 17-15, but with the Lady Maroons winning the championship via sweep, the Lady Falcons grabbed third place with a higher quotient, 4-2, after two games.