Ateneo Blue Eagles as high-flying as ever
Coach Oliver Almadro (extreme left, standing) must be the happiest coach these days. His Blue Eagles are on an unblemished flight in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference, the season-ending tournament of another grand event organized by Sports Vision with Asics as official league partner and Mikasa as official game ball.
Hard to believe but true.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles are hardly feeling the departure of their topnotch middle blockers, Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva, as they keep their perfect run in the PVL Collegiate Conference.
The first to secure a semifinal slot, they made quick work of five of their six opponents so far and yielded only a set to one (Far Eastern University) for a 6-0 card going into their much-awaited clash with National University on the penultimate day of the eight-team elimination round.
It is as if the graduation of the prolific pair of Intal and Villanueva, who have since both moved to Cignal, never made a dent on the strength of the UAAP triple champion squad from Katipunan.
Marck Espejo, unarguably the country’s No. 1 spiker to date, offers an explanation.
“During training, Coach O (Oliver) trains us in different positions so that when someone graduates from the team, somebody is ready to take his place.”
Now, Nigerian Chumason Celestine is ably filling up the shoes of Villanueva and Gian Carlo Glorioso those of Intal. And Ishmael John Rivera and Ron Adrian Medalla are alternately stepping up for the absent Tony Koyfman, reportedly mothballed by academic deficiency.
Trust Espejo not to say it – that as long as he is around Ateneo will be hard to beat. The Marikina marvel keeps leveling up. In fact, he is more dangerous now, more accurate in his net attacks and jump serves. He averages 14 points in all the six games won by the Blue Eagles.
Not to mention that he remains as humble as ever. Here is one player who has no swagger and airs.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles lineup: Lawrence Gil Magadia, Karl Irvin Baysa, Ron Medalla, Jasper Rodney Tan, Herminio Jino Labao, Paulo Lorenzo Trinidad, Chumason Celestine Njigha, Manuel Sumanguid III, Esmilzo Joner Polvorosa, Marck Jesus Espejo, Gian Carlo Glorioso, Sebastian Enrique Cuerva, Ishmael John Rivera and Canciano Llenos.
Oliver Allan Almadro, head coach; Timothy James Sto. Tomas Jr., assistant coach; Jarod Hubalde, trainer; and Yuichi Akaba, trainer/therapist.