Ateneo, NU clash in a rematch of last year's Finals series
Mark Escarlote on Feb 27, 2016 12:20 AM
Powerhouse teams collide in Ateneo de Manila-National University duel.
Go hard and play hard.
These are the simple instructions Ateneo de Manila coach Oliver Almadro wanted the defending champion Blue Eagles to follow on Saturday when they meet the National University Bulldogs in a rematch of last year’s finale in the 78th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament at the Big Dome.
Almadro, also the national team mentor, said that he prepared his team like usual with the mindset of treating the showdown like any other game.
“Basically no special or unusual preparation for us,” Almadro told ABS-CBN Sports. “We practiced naman the usual, because I want the team to think na this is just another game that we have to prepare. Not a small nor a big game. Because if you overthink mas nakakadagdag sa pressure.”
“I am just preparing them mentally to go hard and play hard against NU,” he added.
The Katipunan-based squad and Adamson Falcons share the lead with 5-1 win-loss cards ahead of the Bulldogs, who are coming off back-to-back victories for a 4-1 record.
Ateneo is looking to extend its three-game winning streak in the marquee match slated at 10:00 a.m. that will air live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action Channel 23, ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD Channel 166 and via livestream at sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap.
The Blue Eagles made a short work of University of the East, 25-16, 25-18, 25-14, last Wednesday in a balanced show of force from Ateneo’s intact championship core, an advantage Almadro thinks they enjoy.
“About sa edge, well siguro ‘yung cohesiveness lang as as a team (ang lamang namin),” he said.
Back-to-back Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo, Rex Intal, Joshua Villanueva, Ysay Marasigan and Season 77 Finals MVP Ish Polvorosa will again carry the Blue Eagles' fight against the team Ateneo dethroned in two games in last year’s title series.
Still the Blue Eagles mentor is wary of NU’s strength despite losing most of its last year’s core.
He pointed out that veteran setter Vince Mangulabnan serves as the Bulldogs’ leader with his skills and experience.
“’Yung NU naman kasi although nawala ‘yung core, si Vince is still there, so nama-manage n’ya ‘yung team as a senior,” Almadro said. “And the rest inabutan naman ‘yung mga nag-graduate so basically may precedent na sa kanila ‘yung sistema nila.”
“NU is still a tall and talented team. So we have to be ready for them,” he added.
The Bulldogs scalped the Red Warriors, 25-14, 25-23, 25-21, last week.
Bryan Bagunas, Madzlan Gampong, Kim Malanunga and rookie James Natividad are expected to help Mangulabnan avenge their championship loss and climb up the standings.
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