NU fends off pesky UST to near UAAP men’s volleyball 3-peat
MANILA, Philippines — National University withstood the tough challenge of the University of Santo Tomas in thrilling five sets, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 29-31, 15-11 to move on the cusp of a historic ‘three-peat’ and a perfect UAAP Season 85 men’s volleyball campaign on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Coming off an 11-day hiatus since completing a 14-game elimination round sweep on April 29, the unbeaten Bulldogs were pushed to the limits by the Golden Spikers, led by rookie Josh Ybanez and GBoy De Vega, who erased their two-set lead and forced a fifth set.
But Michaelo Buddin came to the rescue in the decider as he scored five of his team-high 26 points to keep NU unbeaten in 15 games this season and extend its winning streak to 33 games dating back to the opening day of Season 81 in 2019.
“I didn’t want to waste the effort of my teammates and coaching staff. We’re already here so I kept on fighting, I don’t want to let them down because we had a long preparation for this game,” said Buddin in Filipino after finishing with 24 spikes, one block, and an ace to go with 26 excellent receptions.
UST, which built strong momentum from the heroics of Ybanez and De Vega in the fourth set, blew a 7-5 lead in the fifth and gave up six errors in the frame including four attack miscues that gave NU a 12-9 advantage.
Buddin kept the gap for the Bulldogs with a back-row kill, 13-11, before service specialist Clarenz Belostrino checked in and drilled an ace to reach match point, 14-11. Nico Almendras nailed the game-winning block on Jay Rack De la Noche to end the two-hour and 50-minute game.
“It was an exciting game. Both teams gave their best in every set. Although in other sets, we had problems on our offense but good thing their unforced errors helped us. We need to work harder on Sunday to finally achieve our goal,” said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin after the Bulldogs and Golden Spikers’ first Finals collision in the Final Four era.
Almendras finished with 20 points built on 18 attacks and two blocks. Ken Malinis had 11 points, while setter Owa Retamar dished out 25 excellent receptions and scored five markers.
Retamar hurt his right knee after a collision with Ybanez’s knee but he was able to keep on playing and vow to play in Game 2 on Sunday when NU tries to complete a sweep and capture its fifth overall volleyball crown.
Ybanez led the Golden Spikers in their first finals in 11 years as he poured in 28 points and had 12 digs. De Vega had 19 points, including his clutch attacks in the fourth, while Flor added 12 markers.
De La Noche arrived with coach Odjie Mamon at 6 a.m. from the Philippine men’s volleyball team’s fifth-place finish in Cambodia but still played instrumental with eight points in the last three sets.
UST gave up 40 errors in the match.