The UST Golden Tigresses drop Game 1 of the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball finals against the NU Lady Bulldogs, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20, at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, May 11. (Photo by Albert Earl A. Gomez/ The Varsitarian)

The UST Golden Tigresses are in a tight spot after losing Game 1 to the NU Lady Bulldogs in the women’s volleyball finals, compounded by MVP candidate Angge Poyos sustaining a concerning injury during the game and casting doubt on her availability for Game 2.

Poyos, UST’s leading scorer with an average of 22 points per game during the elimination round, injured her right ankle after landing on teammate Em Banagua’s left foot in the second set of Game 1. She exited the game and did not return.

UST’s injury misfortune in the finals is reminiscent of then-rookie Eya Laure’s injury in the Season 81 finals, which UST ultimately lost. However, UST head coach Emilio “Kung Fu” Reyes said Poyos’ injury is less severe and expressed hope for her return.

“Regarding kay Poyos, medyo may maga ang [right ankle], pero hindi naman siya sobrang lala like no’ng kay Eya dati,” Reyes said after Game 1 on May 11.

“Isang maganda naman, e hindi ‘yong jumping foot kasi nasa right side. Pero definitely, maaapektuhan ‘yong performance niya so, hopefully makabalik.”

Despite losing Poyos, Reyes attributed UST’s defeat entirely to NU’s performance.

“Walang ibang alibi, talagang stiff lang ‘yong nilaro ng mga bata and smooth na smooth naman ‘yong kabilang side [NU],” Reyes said. “We tried to penetrate their defense, pero talagang kahit anong atake namin nakukuha nila.”

“Kailangan lang naming gawin is bounce back kasi nandito na kami, win or go home na kami sa Wednesday.”

In the second set, Poyos scored seven points before leaving the game due to her injury. This forced UST to adjust its rotation, bringing in Xyza Gula and Renee Peñafiel as opposite spikers. 

Reyes said reserve players like Gula and Pierre Abellana need to improve and bounce back after a tough performance in Game 1.

Pressure rin ang naging worries nila kanina, instead na makapaglaro, may kaunting hesitations pero sa dulo, nakakabawi naman sila,” the coach said.

Gula and Abellana scored two and one points, respectively.

Reyes also emphasized the need for a collective effort, as Poyos’s return for Game 2 remains uncertain.

“Hindi naman kami nananalo dahil si Angge lang ang pumupuntos, nananalo kami as a group,” he said. “May mga highest pointers, pero bago dumating sa atake, may dumedepensa, and may nagse-set ng plays. Iyong collective effort hindi masyadong na-maximize ngayon.”

Reyes told the Varsitarian after the game that Poyos would get an x-ray and undergo evaluation after receiving first aid. However, she will not be able to undergo an MRI yet due to the swelling of her ankle.

“We lose the game, ‘wag lang mawala ‘yong character na kung anong mayroon kami. Walang nananalo ng isang laro sa best-of-three series, kailangan lang naming makabalik.” 

NU is on the brink of reclaiming the UAAP crown, needing just one more win, while UST must secure a victory in the next game to force a Game 3.

The pivotal Game 2 is set for May 15, Wednesday, at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.