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La Salle sweeps Ateneo to clinch Final Four berth

The La Salle Lady Spikers booked their 11th straight semifinals appearance in the UAAP women's volleyball tournament after sweeping their head-to-head matchup with the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

La Salle displayed its championship form to dominate the top-seeded Ateneo, 25-17, 25-13, 25-23, in the second round of their rivalry showdown Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Spikers improved their record to 9-3 and solidified their place in the top two. The Lady Eagles, on the other hand, suffered their second loss of the season -- both handed by La Salle -- but stayed ahead of the pack with a 10-2 card.

"I did not expect that the game will end this quickly but I'm happy because it's in our favor," said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus.

Rookie sensation Jolina dela Cruz topped with 13 points, while Lourdes Clemente and Aduke Ogunsanya finished with 10 points apiece. May Luna added nine points including three aces.

Ateneo, which leads the league in blocking, had zero rejections in the game and could not do anything to stop La Salle's offensive schemes.

"We had several variations and it was up to [Michelle] Cobb to find the best strategy," said De Jesus. "We were able to neutralize (their blocking) because it's part of our game plan."

The three-time defending champions took control of the match from the get-go. Luna caught fire from the back row and the service zone, which sparked the Lady Spikers' breakaway in the opening frame.

The Lady Eagles had an even worse performance in the second set. Out of the 13 points that they scored in the period, only three came from their own attacks. The rest were given away by La Salle's errors.

"I always remind the team to minimize the unforced errors. Most of the time when we lose, we have several unforced errors. Now we only had a few. That's one of the factors why we survived today," said De Jesus.

The Lady Spikers continued to roll in the early goings of Set 3. Ateneo gained some momentum midway, but Dela Cruz heated up and put her team ahead by six at 22-16.

The Lady Eagles almost closed the gap with a 5-0 run, which was abruptly ended by an overreaching violation. Ponggay Gaston and Clemente traded points before Ogunsanya clinched the win with a kill.

Gaston emerged as the top scorer for Ateneo as she registered seven points and 12 receptions.

The Lady Eagles have two more chances to clinch the twice-to-beat incentive when they battle Adamson on April 24 and UE on April 28.

The Lady Spikers also moved closer to the twice-to-beat bonus ahead of their remaining matches against UE on April 24 and FEU on April 28.