By Jean Malanum

BACK IN THE FINALS. University of Santo Tomas players jubilate after beating Far Eastern University, 25-18, 21-25, 26-24, 26-24, in the rubber match of the UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball semifinals at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday (May 8, 2024). The Golden Spikers had to hurdle the top-seeded Tamaraws twice to set up a finals rematch against the National University Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy of Varsitarian)

MANILA – National University and University of Santo Tomas will dispute the UAAP Season 86 men’s and women’s volleyball titles after taking different routes to the finals.

The fourth-ranked UST Golden Spikers completed their sweep of the top-seeded Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 25-18, 21-25, 26-24, 26-24, at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Wednesday.

Outside hitter and reigning Most Valuable Player Josh Ybañez made 19 points and 13 excellent receptions for the Golden Spikers, who forced the decider following a 25-23, 25-19, 28-26 victory on Sunday.

It was the first time that a fourth-ranked volleyball team made the finals since the Final Four format was introduced in 2004.

Three-time defending champion NU eliminated De La Salle, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, in the first game.

NU won last year via a sweep of UST, but the Golden Spikers mastered the Bulldogs in the elimination round this season.

“Actually, I just let them play the whole match, I had little interference. I was actually a cheerleader earlier, not their coach. I let them play and they delivered,” UST head coach Odjie Mamon after the two hour and 23-minute match.

Both Santo Tomas teams are headed to the finals for the first time since Seasons 72 and 73 after the second-seeded women’s team dethroned De La Salle University, 25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-7, also on Sunday.

It will take on top-seeded NU, which finally disposed of FEU, 25-13, 27-25, 25-15, late Wednesday.

Bella Belen led the Lady Bulldogs with 21 points, including five aces.

FEU delayed NU’s finals march with a 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 triumph on Saturday.

The UST men’s team won four straight titles in Seasons 70 to 73 but FEU stopped its run in Season 74.

On the other hand, the women’s team beat La Salle in the Season 72 finals but La Salle exacted revenge the following year.

Those were the last volleyball titles of both UST teams.

The best-of-three “Battle of Sampaloc” championship round, referring to the Manila district where both schools are located, will start Saturday, also at Araneta.

The men’s final will be at 2 p.m. while the women’s match fires off 4 p.m.

Game Two will be at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on May 15, after the awarding of individual awards at 1 p.m.

If necessary, Game Three will also be at the Pasay Arena on May 18.

Color it yellow

Meanwhile, UST announced another “Yellow Day” on Thursday to show support for the Golden Booters when they face the twice-to-beat University of the Philippines Maroons in the Final Four of men’s football.

Game time is 7 p.m. at the UP Diliman pitch in Quezon City.

UP swept UST in the preliminaries, 2-1 and 4-0.

Defending champion FEU will battle No. 4 Ateneo in the other semi.

The finals will be held May 16. (PNA)