National University completed its back-to-back conquest after coming back from a set down to take a 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19, Game 2 win over Far Eastern University in the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball best-of-three Finals at the MOA Arena.
Graduating hitter Bryan Bagunas made a grand exit as he led the Bulldogs to its fourth title overall while bagging the Season and Finals Most Valuable Player awards. NU closed the season with 16 straight victories.
Bagunas scored a career-high 35 points highlighted by a 33-of-49 spiking clip laced with 12 digs and nine excellent receptions in his farewell tour of duty for NU. Kim Malabunga added nine markers while James Natividad and Rookie of the Year Nico Almendras combined for 15 points for the Bulldogs, which controlled the fourth set early before cruising their reign extension.
NU, which faced the Tamaraws in the Finals for the first time since winning its first crown in Season 75, took the series opener last Saturday also in four sets.
"Masaya ako sa pagiging champion namin, sa naging performance namin, umangat ng umangat pagdating dito sa Finals. Ayun sobrang saya lang sa na-achieve namin ngayong taon," said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin, whose wards also won the historic gold medal in the ASEAN University Games before the start of the season.
The Bulldogs, which had a shaky start, got a scare in the second frame after FEU tied the set at 22. Almendras but NU back on top with a hit before Bagunas hammered a spike to put the Bulldogs at set point, 24-22. The Tams saved a set point off an Almendras service error but FEU was whistled for an illegal attack.
NU broke a 19-19 deadlock in the third set with a 3-1 rally capped by a kill in a run that saw FEU setter Owen Suarez go down with a left leg cramps. The Tams saved a set point before the Bulldogs closed the frame.
Skipper Richard Solis got 18 points for FEU, which played in its first championship series in six years. Jude Garcia, JP Bugaoan, Redijohn Paler and Peter Quiel scored 11 markers each for the Tams.
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