Perfect Ateneo pulls off UAAP men’s volley three-peat
Ateneo extended its dynasty and snared its third straight UAAP men’s volleyball championship, outlasting National University in a five-set classic, 18-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13, to complete a perfect season Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Four-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo powered the Blue Eagles as he pumped in 27 points including the title-clinching block on Fauzi Ismail.
Finals MVP Tony Koyfman added nine of his 11 markers off hits, graduating seniors Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva both had 10 points, and Ish Polvorosa had 62 excellent sets for Ateneo.
Ateneo swept the UAAP Season 79 men’s volleyball Finals in two games and stretched its winning streak to 30 matches dating back to last season’s campaign.
“From the very beginning, we didn’t expect that we’ll be able to sweep (the season), but the Lord is so good and gave us the strength and rescued us,” said Blue Eagles coach Oliver Almadro.
“I admire my players, their maturity and their resiliency. They just believed that we can do the impossible.”
With its back against the wall, facing a 2-1 set deficit, Ateneo showed its character, hammering the Bulldogs with 15 attack points in set 4 to extend Game 2 to a deciding fifth set.
The Blue Eagles continued to play catchup in the fifth set, crawling back from a 4-1 deficit with a Polvorosa service ace knotting the score at eight.
Intal scored off the block to put Ateneo on the hill while Espejo delivered the finishing blow, denying Ismail at the net to seal the title.
“Ever since the start of this season, we always had slow starts. the good thing is the players manage it and they know how to handle it. The maturity is there so it’s a big thing for our team that our seniors delivered,” said Almadro.
The Blue Eagles weathered a tough defensive stand from the Bulldogs, who had 15 blocks in the match.
Ismail led the valiant Bulldogs with 24 points, 19 coming from hits with five blocks, while Bagunas added 20.