The UAAP women's volleyball crown is back in Katipunan.
The Ateneo Lady Eagles clinched the UAAP Season 81 title after sweeping the UST Golden Tigresses, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22 in Game 3 of the championship series Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After missing the finals last season, Ateneo clawed its way back to the top for the first time in four years.
"It's not how you start, it's how you end. We lost the first match of the season. Many people counted us out... but we made it. It's because of our faith and courage," said coach Oliver Almadro.
The Lady Eagles recovered from a huge beatdown in Game 1 to secure the trophy. Bea de Leon earned the Finals MVP award for leading the team in their back-to-back wins.
Kat Tolentino topped with 15 points in the title-clincher. Maddie Madayag delivered 19 points including four blocks, while De Leon and Jules Samonte finished with six apiece. Samonte unleashed the game-winning kill and also contributed 10 receptions. Dani Ravena tallied 13 digs and seven receptions.
The Tigresses shot themselves in the foot, committing 13 errors in the opening set that helped Ateneo set the tone. They ended up giving away a total of 29 points from their miscues.
The Lady Eagles, on the other hand, displayed composure from the get-go. Their league-best net defense was on full display as they unleashed 14 kill blocks, with Samonte and Madayag accounting for eight rejections.
MVP Sisi Rondina and Rookie of the Year Eya Laure kept on fighting for UST until the end. Rondina wrapped up her collegiate career with 18 points, 11 digs, and seven receptions. Laure, who suffered an ankle sprain in Game 2, produced 10 points in the loss.
The Tigresses put themselves in the best position to regain the championship that they last won in Season 72. They established a seven-game streak until the series opener, but Ateneo bounced back and dominated the last two matches.
"When we lost the first game, I told them it's not important. What's important is the last game of the season, and indeed, it reached Game 3," said Almadro. "Thank you to the players for trusting me and the system. I'm just an instrument, they're the ones who worked for it."