Ateneo rules men’s tilt
Ateneo got one down in its bid for UAAP volleyball domination this season.
Banking on the explosive Marck Espejo, the Blue Eagles rose from a set down to hack out a 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15 victory over National University and capture their first UAAP men’s volleyball championship yesterday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Espejo showed everything he does best, tossing in the hits that mattered in the tight second and third frames, before leading the Eagles’ ruthless assault in a one-sided fourth set to finish with a career-high 33 points.
“It was worth the wait,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. “We worked hard for this. We really prepared for this. At times there were bumps, but the players never gave up. Everybody delivered.”
As the Eagles completed a series sweep at 2-0, the unbeaten Lady Eagles shoot for back-to-back titles versus fierce rival La Salle in the women’s Finals starting at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Lady Spikers clinched the last title berth after disposing of the Lady Bulldogs, 26-24, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, but the late injury on La Salle’s star spiker Ara Galang may weighed heavily on the team in the title playoffs.
“I asked her after the incident if she could return, she said no. She was really in pain,” said La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus. “It’s hard to lose a leader in the team, but we have to find a way.”
The Lady Spikers seemed to have regained their confidence behind Galang, who arguably played her best game of the season for 25 points, before suffering from a bad fall after a spike that gave them a 23-20 lead in the fourth.
Espejo, who bagged his second straight MVP, unloaded 28 spikes, almost half of the 57 total the Eagles tallied in the match.
“It was all teamwork,” said Espejo of the title romp that also avenged the Eagles’ loss the Bulldogs in last year’s Finals. “Last season, it was our first time in the Finals. We had no idea.”
But this time, the Eagles—who took Game 1, 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22—knew what to do in pressure-packed situations.
Relentless in the fourth frame, the Eagles zoomed to an 18-10 advantage, 11 coming off booming spikes.
Finals MVP Ish Polvorosa, this season’s Best Server who recorded 46.5 excellent sets in the series, also played a key role for the Eagles.
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