La Salle Lady Spikers celebrate a point against the UP Fighting Maroons in the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament. –MARLO CUETO/

La Salle lost a crucial cornerstone in its rotation before escaping with a thrilling 26-24, 25-20, 24-26, 27-25 victory over the University of the Philippines on Thursday in the Season 86 Women's Volleyball Tournament of the UAAP.

The defending champions had to endure the absence of Angel Canino and the strong resistance of the Lady Maroons as they advanced towards a clear passage to the Final Four with their eighth victory after nine games.

Shevana Laput and Alleiah Malaluan took on the task of filling the void left by Canino, last season's rookie MVP who had to sit out the match after suffering an accident.

READ: Angel Canino has an injury to his right arm, outside of La Salle x UP

“She had an accident, there are cuts on her arms. Her status is being monitored day by day, but we don’t know when she will be able to play,” said La Salle assistant coach Noel Orcullo.

Canino wore a sling on his right arm as he egged on his teammates on the bench.

“Her presence there is a motivation for sure. We are doing her justice and giving her peace of mind by winning for her,” said Laput after scoring 21 points, 18 of them attacks.

Malaluan fired off 16 attacks of her 17 points, while Maicah Larroza added 12 points, 14 digs and 10 receptions for the Lady Spikers, who will seal a semifinal appearance if the Lady Tamaraws of Far Eastern University defeat the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the other game.

Angel Canino, star of La Salle Lady Spikers

La Salle Lady Spikers star Angel Canino is sidelined with an arm injury at the UAAP Season 86 women's volleyball tournament. –MARLO CUETO/

Julia Coronel stood out again, finishing with 17 excellent sets that went well with five points and three blocks culminated by her deflection of Joan Monares' attack on match point.

“Our team doesn’t just depend on one player because everyone is capable of delivering. There are still more things you haven’t seen from this team,” Larroza said.

READ: La Salle is not satisfied despite the latest victory in UAAP women's volleyball

The Lady Maroons kept La Salle on its toes throughout the first set, with Irah Jaboneta and Stephanie Bustrillo doing most of the damage.

But Coronel managed to free the Lady Spikers from the tight contest in the 24th minute with an uncontested push and Laput rose from the back line to deliver another attack on set point.

Momentum was on La Salle's side in the next set, with Laput and Jyne Soreno fully committed to bombarding the Lady Maroons' lair.

After Nica Celis' spike cleared the end line, Thea Gagate came down with two successive blocks that allowed the Lady Spikers to gain control.

Soreno threw two crosscourt shots that sandwiched Malaluan's line drive that ended the set.

The Lady Spikers were on the verge of completing a sweep as they attacked UP with a variety of hits early in the third set.

Julyana Tolentino's sneaky push, coupled with Larroza's crosscourt attack and Amie Provido's shot through the block, created a nine-point lead, a lead they thought they could maintain until the end.

But the Lady Maroons patiently recovered from a big deficit, taking advantage of La Salle's unforgivable mistakes.

Nina Ytang blocked Laput's attack that tied the score at 24 and Joan Monares gave UP the lead in the next sequence with a blocked shot.

An attacking error by Laput on set point allowed the Lady Maroons to prolong the match.

UP faced the defending champions in a long back-and-forth contest in the fourth set, only to let the opportunity slip away.

Back-to-back blows from Bustrillo and a crosscourt attack courtesy of Ytang brought them closer to another set victory, 21-19, that threatened to push the Rodent to the limit.

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But Malaluan came to La Salle's rescue, unleashing three successive strikes that last tied things up at 25, before Larroza fired another shot into the back row and Coronel deflected Monares' attack at match point.

The Lady Maroons relied on Jaboneta's 18 points and Bustrillo's 16 attacks, while Geisha Capistrano had 20 receptions and 13 digs in another harrowing loss, her ninth overall in 10 games.