Blue Eagles start back-to-back title bid
Mark Escarlote on Apr 23, 2016 02:56 AM
The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles open their repeat bid in a Finals trilogy against National University.
Much has been said about the epic rivalry between Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle in women’s volleyball.
While most of the hype and excitement of the 78th UAAP championship series are focused on the Lady Spikers-Lady Eagles fifth straight title duel, the men’s division is also silently rekindling a rivalry that is now on its third year.
Two-time Most Valuable player Marck Espejo and the rest of the Blue Eagles stake their pride and hold of the crown against the National University Bulldogs, who are raring to drag them off the throne.
The two squads will take the floor to open the best-of-three men’s championship series in the scheduled 12:00 noon joust – a good four hours before the much-anticipated Ateneo-DLSU clash in the distaff side – at the Big Dome on Saturday.
This is the third straight championship faceoff between the Blue Eagles and the Bulldogs. They split the first two with NU winning in Season 76 before Ateneo denied the Bulldogs a three-peat last year in a shocking series sweep for the Katipunan-based squad’s breakthrough championship.
The Blue Eagles, who only lost once in the eliminations at the hands of the Adamson Falcons in the first round, eliminated University of the Philippines in the Final Four in a quick 25-12, 25-13, 25-16, decision last week to secure their third straight finals appearance.
Aside from the power-hitting Espejo, Ateneo will bank on graduating team captain Ysay Marasigan, Rex Intal, Joshua Villanueva and last season’s Finals MVP setter Ish Polvorosa against the squad they swept in the elims.
The Blue Eagles demolished NU, 25-19, 25-15, 25-15 in the first round and duplicated it in their elims rematch in four sets, 26-28, 25-23, 25-21, 25-17.
While Ateneo, which is riding the crest of a 12-game winning run, had an easy ticket to the championship round, the Bulldogs needed two games to boot out the feisty Falcons.
Behind James Natividad, Bryan Bagunas, Reuben Baysac, Kim Malabunga and Madzlan Gampong’s double-digit effort with skipper Vince Mangulabnan’s 61 excellents sets, NU escaped the do-or-die Final Four match against Adamson, 19-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23, last Wednesday.
Game 2 of the Finals is on Wednesday.