POWER. National University’s Michaela Belen (No. 4) smashes for a point against University of Santo Tomas during the opener of the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball best-of-three finals at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City on Saturday (May 11, 2024). NU won, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20, and will seek to close out the season in Game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on Wednesday (May 15). (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.) 

MANILA – National University closed in on the UAAP Season 86 men’s and women’s volleyball crowns after blanking University of Santo Tomas in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Saturday.

The three-time defending champion Bulldogs finally got one over the Golden Spikers, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19, after losing in their elimination encounters.

The Lady Bulldogs also prevailed, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20, before 20,955 fans.

They gave up the throne to the De La Salle Lady Archers last year after winning in Season 84.

NU seeks to close out the season in Game 2 at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on Wednesday after the 1 p.m. individual awards ceremony.

Game 3, if necessary, will be on May 18 at the same Pasay venue.

Ateneo was the last school that became double champions in 2015.

The Golden Spikers roared to an early 7-3 lead but the Bulldogs rallied behind Leo Aringo to take the first set.

UST’s Josh Ybañez unleashed his might in the second with back-to-back kills to extend the second set, 24-24, but Michaelo Buddin came up with the response in the form of a push shot right through the arms of Dux Yambao to regain the lead, 25-24.

Ybañez answered with a crosscourt shot but NU called for an antenna touch challenge.

After the review, it was deemed successful to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 set lead.

In the third, Buddin and graduating Nico Almendras connived to build a comfortable cushion halfway en route to the dominant straight-sets win in just one hour and 24 minutes.

Ito ‘yung hinihintay ko sa mga player ko na nagsabay-sabay sila (I’ve been waiting for this, that they’ll click at the same time) in terms of skills floor defense, atake namin, blocking namin nandito lahat ngayon (attacks, blockings. They’re all there),” NU men’s coach Dante Alinsunurin said.

The Golden Tigresses took a big hit in the second set with the game tied at 11 when top gunner Angge Poyos went down with an injured right ankle on a block play after landing on teammate Em Banagua’s foot.

She was not able to return.

From that point on, the Lady Bulldogs’ troika of Alyssa Solomon, Vange Alinsug, and Bella Belen pounded UST, capped by Sheena Toring’s slide attack, for the 2-0 set lead.

Back-to-back errors from NU gave hope to UST in the third, inching within two, 19-21, but Toring and Alinsug powered the Lady Bulldogs in crunch time for the victory in one hour and 54 minutes.

“Masayang masaya kasi nauna na kami sa Game 1. Nag work ‘yung game plan kahit papaano. Na-apply namin so masayang masaya (We’re very happy to take Game 1. Our game plan worked so we’re really happy),” NU women’s coach Norman Miguel said. (UAAP media)