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UST's Gula steps up, dedicates notable performance to injured Poyos

MANILA, Philippines -- With Rookie of the Year Angeline Poyos still hobbled by an ankle injury, the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses needed every help they could get as they faced the mighty National University Lady Bulldogs for the championship on Wednesday.

Poyos, who had a grade 3 sprain on her right ankle, started for UST but was only able to score just one point.

With a massive hole in the offense of the Golden Tigresses, the explosive Xyza Gula heeded the call.

The 5-foot-4 Gula led the España-based squad in scoring with 18 points of 16 attacks and two blocks.

The second-year outside hitter came up big against the tall frontline of the Lady Bulldogs, scoring on a barrage of moves – crosscourt kills, down-the-line attacks, off-the-block hits and tips.

Ultimately, UST succumbed to the fully healthy NU as the Sampaloc-based team regained the championship -- its second in three years -- in four sets, 25-23, 23-25, 27-25, 25-16.

After the game, Gula said that she dedicated her game for Poyos, who is the second-best scorer of the whole tournament, as well as the UST community.

“Siguro iyong mindset ko is laruin lang iyong game namin since ang laro, para kay Angge and para sa UST community na pumipila kahit madaling araw nandoon na sa school,” Gula told reporters after the game.

“Binigay lang namin iyong best namin sa laro,” she added.

The high-flying spiker acknowledged that while eventually, she was checked by the tall defense of NU.

However, she is still proud of the team’s effort despite the height disadvantage.

“[Nabantayan] na rin ako nila Ate Aly [Solomon], nila Ate Lams [Lamina.] Nahirapan din po ako nung first set, triny ko lang din na mag-variate ng attacks and maghingi ng support sa teammates ko,” she said.

“Siyempre, nakaka-proud since yun nga, palaging gusto naming i-prove na yung volleyball, hindi lang sa height, nasa puso and nasa mind.”

UST head coach Kung Fu Reyes also tipped his hat to Gula for her effort and for stepping up in the absence of Poyos.

Currently, there are no Tigresses who have used up their playing years. The team is expected to have an intact core coming into next season.