(Photo courtesy of UAAP)
LAST season's runner-up National University secured the first Final Four berth, while Far Eastern University moved on the cusp of making a return trip to the women's semifinals in the UAAP beach volleyball tournament at the Sands SM By The Bay Sunday.
The Lady Bulldogs took the solo lead with a 5-0 record, as Honey Grace Cordero and Kly Orillaneda logged straight-set romps over Ateneo's Roma Mae Doromal and Gena Hora, 21-16, 21-11, and University of the East's Van Bangayan and Krisha Revilla, 21-11, 21-12.
The Lady Tamaraws also remained perfect as Melody Pons and Gerzel Petallo used their sand court experience to the hilt to repulse La Salle's Sophia Sindayen and Gilliana Torres, 21-11, 21-10.
Extending its undefeated run to four matches, FEU has surpassed last season's three-win output, looking good in making a return stint to the Final Four which it last accomplished in 2019.
Reigning five-time champion University of Santo Tomas kept within reach of the pacesetters as Sofiah Pagara and Gen Eslapor overpowered Adamson's Ishie Lalongisip and Red Bascon, 21-4, 21-10.
But Pagara and Eslapor went through the wringer before beating Doromal and Hora, 21-14, 17-21, 16-14, in the afternoon session for the Tiger Sands to improve to 4-1.
University of the Philippines improved to 2-2 as Euri Eslapor and Irah Jaboneta dominated Bangayan and Revilla, 21-12, 21-9.
The Lady Falcons dropped to 1-3, while the Blue Eagles and the Lady Warriors stumbled to 1-4. The Lady Spikers, meanwhile, remained without a win in four matches.
In men's action, five-peat seeking UST and NU took the first two Final Four slots.
The Tiger Sands remained untouchable in five matches, as reigning MVP Rancel Varga and Alche Gupiteo needed only 30 minutes to beat De La Salle's Andre Espejo and Vince Maglinao, 21-9, 21-8, and Adamson University's Francis Casas and Dan Gutierrez, 21-9, 21-12.
NU also went up to 5-0 as James Buytrago and Alex Iraya waylaid Casas and Gutierrez, 21-14, 21-14, and UE's Jake Abria and Allen Buensalida, 21-8, 21-12.
In other matches, FEU's Vincent Nadera and JJ Javelona topped UP's Christian Pitogo and Gelo Lipata, 21-14, 21-14, while Ateneo's Jian Salarzon and Amil Pacinio bested Abria and Buensalida, 21-14, 21-11, in the other match.
The Blue Eagles are locked in a four-way tie with the Tamaraws, the Green Spikers and the Fighting Maroons at 2-2, making the race for the two remaining Final Four slots too close to call.
The Falcons and the Red Warriors bowed out of contention at 0-5.
Action resumes on Friday at 7 a.m.