November 28, 2023

Tiger Sands dynasty goes on

(Photo courtesy of UAAP)

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas still has National University's number to complete another golden double in UAAP beach volleyball Tuesday at the Sands SM By The Bay.

     Tournament MVP Gen Eslapor and Sofiah Pagara put up a show in the Final as the Tiger Sands completed a six-peat in the women's division with a 21-10, 21-17 conquest of Honey Grace Cordero and Kly Orillaneda.

     The Tiger Sands won the match that mattered most as season MVP Alche Gupiteo and graduating Rancel Varga overcame a tough second set stand by Bulldogs' James Buytrago and Alex Iraya to hammer out a 21-15, 24-22 win to rule the men's side for a fifth season in a row.

     Cementing its status as the most successful program in the sport, UST bagged its ninth women's title and eighth men's crown.

     Eslapor used her smart plays and was on point on offense, while Pagara used her height to the hilt, delivering the championship-clinching kill to cap a scintillating rookie season with the Tiger Sands.

     It was a sorry defeat for NU, which won its first eight men's matches before losing the Final.

     Pagara and Eslapor first reached the Final with a 21-12, 21-10 conquest of University of the Philippines' Euri Eslapor and Irah Jaboneta.  The Final Four showdown marked the final meeting of the Eslapor sisters.

    Cordero and Orillaneda subdued Far Eastern University's Melody Pons and Sheila Kiseo, 21-16, 21-16, to secure the other berth in the title match.

     Kiseo replaced Gerzel Petallo, who suffered cramps while the Lady Tamaraws were trailing 14-16 in the second set.  Kiseo was able to score FEU's two points, but Cordero and Orillaneda delivered down the stretch to complete the straight-set romp.

     Kiseo, constantly targeted all-match long by the Fighting Maroons, produced the third place-clinching hit as the Lady Tamaraws pulled off a 17-21, 25-23, 15-13 victory in a hour-long thriller for their first podium finish since securing second place in 2017.

     FEU's return to top three in the women's side was highlighted by ending UST's remarkable 38-match winning streak early in the season.

     In the men's Final Four, Buytrago and Iraya downed FEU's Vincent Nadera and JJ Javelona, 21-11, 21-17, while Gupiteo and Varga made quick work of Ateneo's Jian Salarzon and Amil Pacinio, 21-12, 21-17.

     The Tamaraws outlasted the Blue Eagles, 21-18, 20-22, 15-9, to bag third place.  It was FEU's first podium finish since 2019, when the Jude Garcia-led squad reached the Finals.