PVL title a stepping stone to UAAP 4-peat -- Almadro
This is not 100% the gauge of what we will be performing during the UAAP, but this is a stepping stone -- Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro
Ateneo de Manila University once again proved their dominance after capturing the inaugural Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference men’s division title.
But the Blue Eagles, who lost only once in the tournament, are not going to rest on their laurels as they prepare for a bigger battle ahead when Ateneo guns for a four-peat in the UAAP Season 80 starting early next year.
“This is not 100% the gauge of what we will be performing during the UAAP, but this is a stepping stone,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, whose squad completed a best-of-three Finals series sweep of Far Eastern University, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16, Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“This is a great opportunity para malaman namin kung ano ang kaya naming gawin,” added the mentor, who completed a grand slam in the tournament after steering Cignal to the Reinforced and Open Conference titles.
This is also the Katipunan-based squad's third straight Collegiate Conference title since winning the defunct V-League's championships in 2015 and 2016.
With the departure of seasoned players Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva last UAAP season, Almadro used their participation in the conference as a chance to discover their flaws, fine tune and experiment on his rotation.
“What we are trying to do here in the PVL is for my team to be exposed and malaman namin kung ano ang kaya naming gawin coming into this UAAP season,” he said.
Marck Espejo, who won the conference and Finals Most Valuable Players awards and Best Open Spiker citation, and setter Ish Polvorosa stepped up as vocal leaders inside the court while John Rivera, Gian Glorioso and Chumason Njigha played consistently for the Blue Eagles.
“Ang maganda kay Marck ngayon he’s stepping up, hindi mo na siya kailangan sabihan. Siya na ang nagsasalita sa team ganoon din si Ish eh,” said Almadro. “Silang dalawa na ang namumuno sa team even si (Manuel) Sumanguid now is stepping up as a leader even si John Rivera.”
The Blue Eagles swept the seven-game elimination round and won Game 1 of the semifinals series against University of Sto. Tomas. Ateneo saw its eight-game winning streak snapped in Game 2 before advancing to the Finals with an escape in the series decider.
Ateneo defeated the Tams in straight sets in the championship series opener.
“Hats off pa rin sa FEU, UST at NU na nasa Final Four,” said Almadro. “Maganda rin naman ang nilalaro nila talagang struggle lang sa schedule and of course hats off din sa mga players ko sa resiliency nila and ‘yung willingness nila na mag-perform ng tama day in and day out.”
The Blue Eagles are scheduled to train abroad, one in Thailand and one in a yet to be decided country, as part of their prep up for UAAP.
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