After tabbing twice-to-beat, NU plans to leave it unused

NU Lady Bulldogs' Bela Belen

NU Lady Bulldogs’ Bela Belen. –MARLO CUETO/

On Saturday, defending champion La Salle and dark horse University of Santo Tomas (UST) will battle for the second Final Four incentive in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament.

The result of that match will greatly impact National University (NU).

That’s why the Lady Bulldogs, despite being the first team to lock in on the semifinal protection, hope they don’t have to pull the twice-to-beat bonus out of their pockets.

“We players feel good about having a twice-to-beat edge, but we don’t [want] to reach a point where we have to use the advantage,’’ NU star Bella Belen said on Wednesday.

The Lady Bulldogs ripped the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws to shreds, 25-21, 25-19, 25-22, at Smart Araneta Coliseum to sweep the second round and earn the luxury of needing to win just once in the Final Four to advance to the Finals.

But the duel between the Lady Spikers and the Tigresses will spell out who the Lady Bulldogs will face in the semifinal.

A win by La Salle plugs NU at No. 1, where it will battle with an FEU squad it has dominated all season.

A win by UST drops the Lady Bulldogs to No. 2, where it will face a Lady Spikers crew very much capable of fashioning the requisite back-to-back wins to advance.

That’s why NU wants to treat its semifinal opener as a knockout duel.

“All four teams are improving and consistently peaking. You don’t know what might happen in the semifinals, so we have to go all out at once,’’ said Belen.

NU won for the 12th time in 14 games and hasn’t lost since ending the first round with a defeat to La Salle. And they are aching to take the shortest route back to the championship.

“It’s a big thing having a twice-to-beat advantage, but we don’t look at it that way. Our aim is to finish it in one game because we’ve been waiting to get back into the Finals,’’ said NU coach Norman Miguel.

Peaking at right time

The Lady Bulldogs, whose offense is propelled by the trio of Belen, Alyssa Solomon and Vangie Alinsug, dominated Season 84 by sweeping their way to the title.

They returned to the championship last season, hoping for another crown, but fell short against the Lady Spikers.

By defeating all teams in the second round, the Lady Bulldogs are peaking at the right time.

“The timing of our performance is perfect, but we cannot afford to relax and become complacent,’’ said Miguel. “We can never tell how our opponent will perform coming to the semifinals.’’

Belen and Solomon had 12 attacks each, setter Camille Lamina delivered 14 excellent sets while Shaira Jardio protected the NU floor with 11 digs and 16 receptions.

“Aside from our goal to sustain our condition, we should also take care of the health of our players entering the crucial stages of the tournament,’’ said Miguel.

The Lady Tamaraws, led by Faida Bakanke’s 14 points and three blocks, wrapped up their second-round campaign with a 9-5 record and will face the No. 1 team in the Final Four.

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“After the last game of the elimination round, it’s the time where the real battle begins. That’s our mindset,’’ said Miguel.

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