Ateneo secures at least a playoff for Final Four spot
Mark Escarlote on Mar 13, 2016 12:53 PM
Ateneo de Manila moved closer to securing a spot in the Final Four.
Defending champion Ateneo de Manila kept its hot streak going, putting the National University again on a leash after a shaky start, 26-28, 25-23, 25-21, 25-17, Sunday in the 78th UAAP men's volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
“Hindi sila bumigay despite the fact na sobrang ganda ng ginagalaw ng NU sa first set and sa second set so ‘yung players ko they did not give up,” said Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro, whose wards snapped NU's two-game winning streak.
The Blue Eagles extended their winning run to seven to keep their tight hold of the lead with a 9-1 win-loss record. The win also gave Ateneo at least a playoff for a spot in the Final Four.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo, Ysay Marasigan and Rex Intal teamed up in the fourth set outgunning the Bulldogs 12-4 to break a 13-13 deadlock to neutralize NU’s threat of forcing a deciding frame.
“Pinairal nila ang mental toughness and pride nila. I commend everybody, lahat ng ginamit ko nag-deliver,” added Almadro. “Natalo kami ng first set, we came back and luckily nakuha pa namin ang third set and nu’ng fourth set medyo easy for us na lang.
Espejo finished with a game-high 25 points coming from 19 kills, four block kills and a pair of aces while contributing 20 perfect receptions for the Katipunan-based squad, which handed NU its sixth straight defeat in their head-to-head match since last year’s eliminations and Final duel.
Marasigan and Intal had eight points for Ateneo, which received 40 points off the Bulldogs awful errors. The Blue Eagles also choked the attackers of NU with 11 kill blocks.
Blue Eagles setter Ish Polvorosa, last year’s Finals MVP, won in a showdown with Bulldogs playmaker Vince Mangulabnan by dishing out 49 perfect sets, eight assists better than his counterpart.
NU dropped to 6-4 record despite the heroic efforts of James Natividad and Bryan Bagunas who scored 17 each and Madzlan Gampong’s 16.
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