Ateneo starts bid for back-to-back crowns
Mark Escarlote on Jan 31, 2016 12:36 AM
Ateneo de Manila faces a tough test to begin its bid for a second straight title.
(The Arena, San Juan)
8:00 a.m. --- FEU vs UP
10:00 a.m. --- Ateneo vs UST
The road to a repeat crown starts Sunday morning for the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles against the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers as hostilities in the 78th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament begin at The Arena in San Juan.
Reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player Mark Espejo is back together with most of the core of last year’s champion team when they collide with the Tigers, who are minus two of their go-to-guys in Season 77.
The match starts at 10:00 a.m. after the showdown of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons slated at 8:00 a.m. to kick off another season of exciting collegiate volleyball.
The Ateneo-UST battle will air live over ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD Channel 166 and via livestream at sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap.
Aside from Espejo other key returnees are graduating player Ysay Marasigan, last season’s Finals MVP setter Ish Polvorosa, Joshua Villanueva and Rex Intal.
The Blue Eagles will also parade an added arsenal in Ron Medalla, a former Juniors MVP recruit from University of the East.
UST, which finished Season 77 eliminations at second spot but were beaten twice in the semifinals by National University, will miss the services of prolific scorer Mark Alfafara and last year’s skipper Romnick Rico, who both used up all their playing eligibility.
Setter Paul Castillo, Jason Sarabia, Kris Roy Guzman and Patrick Balse are the key holdovers of UST, which is looking to end a four-year title drought.
Meanwhile, the Tamaraws, holder of 25 titles, begin their quest to redemption against the rookie-laden Maroons.
FEU, which fell short of a Final Four stint last year, will march into a new war with an almost intact lineup led by national team member Greg Dolor, Jeric Gacutan, Joshua Barrica and Lucky Margate.
UP, on the other hand, has a young and promising roster with six rookies raring to show their wares in the collegiate stage.
Seniors Alfred Valbuena and Evan Raymundo will spearhead the Maroons’ campaign.
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