via Rappler | Clicking right from the get-go, the Ateneo Lady Eagles overpowered the UST Golden Tigresses in straight sets, 25-17, 25-22. 25-22, in the do-or-die Game 3 to capture the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball championship on Saturday, May 18, at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.

The league’s best blocking team banked on its strength as the towering trio of Finals MVP Bea de Leon, Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino led the Lady Eagles in wrapping up the best-of-three title series, 2-1, with back-to-back wins.

Ponggay Gaston and Deanna Wong also came through in key plays, particularly in the tight 2nd frame that the Tigresses controlled virtually all the way before the Lady Eagles staged a late 5-0 run to steal the set, 25-22, in front of a 21,347-strong crowd.

As Ateneo bagged its first crown since its back-to-back title romp in 2014 and 2015 behind Alyssa Valdez, the Lady Eagles also shattered the Tigresses’ heart.

UST came close to ending a near decade-long title drought after taking Game 1 with a surprising straight-set sweep behind season MVP Sisi Rondina and Rookie of the Year Eya Laure.

But Ateneo stayed alive in Game 2 with a four-set decision to force a winner-take-all.

After UST easily fell in the opening set of Game 3, it seemed as though the Tigresses were headed for a quick comeback after taking an 11-7 lead in Set 2.

However, star setter Wong provided a big spark for the Lady Eagles with back-to-back aces highlighting a 5-0 run, 23-20.

UST would inch within one right after, but Rondina ended the frame with a net touch after hitting her head as she fell off the hit.

With momentum fully on their side, the Lady Eagles cruised to the 2nd technical timeout, 16-9, off two straight emphatic hits from Tolentino.

Sophomore libero Dani Ravena even got on the scoreboard off a dig as UST’s late rally lost steam down the stretch.

Along with libero Rica Rivera, Rondina ended her stellar collegiate career without a UAAP championship.

Tolentino led the Lady Eagles with 15 points, 11 coming off attacks.

“Nothing compares to this feeling right now,” De Leon, who chipped in 6 points, said during the celebration.

Madayag had 6 spikes and 4 blocks in a 10-point performance, while Jules Samonte also registered 4 of her 6 points off blocks.

Rondina paced the Tigresses by scoring all but one of her game-high 18 points off spikes, while Laure tallied 10 points.