Blue Eagles assert mastery over Bulldogs for share of the lead
Mark Escarlote on Feb 08, 2017 12:58 PM
Ateneo de Manila asserted its mastery over National University.
It was indeed a preview of a possible Finals match between three-peat seeking Ateneo de Manila and archrival National University.
But the result turned out to be a replay of the last two Finals series, again with the Blue Eagles emerging on top.
Ateneo joined Far Eastern University on top of the standings with a 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16, win over the Bulldogs Wednesday in the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Blue Eagles improved to 2-0 win-loss record and will face FEU next on Sunday.
As expected, three-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo did most of the damage for Ateneo with his powerful kills that either broke the defensive wall of the Bulldogs or caught the defense frozen at their feet.
Espejo smashed all but one of his 18 points from kills while adding 10 excellent receptions and seven digs to strengthen his bid for another MVPaward.
Six-foot-8 Russian American Tony Koyfman was a sentinel in front of the net pounding 13 spikes with a couple of kill blocks for 15 points while graduating player Rex Intal had four blocks for a total of eight markers for the Katipunan-based squad, which fought a hard battle against the rivlas that has yet to win against them since Season 76.
"'Yung first set was a hard fought set, yung second set ganoon din. Sa first set kasi si Karl Baysa na-injure eh so nawala ang rotation namin so pagdating sa third set medyo nanibago," said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. "Noted naman namin ang mga mistakes namin at pagkakamali this day. What's important is all of my players delivered."
The Blue Eagles showed composure down the stretch of the first frame overcoming a couple of service errors that gave two set points to the Bulldogs. Ron Medalla kept the set alive with an attack to tie the frame at 25 before Espejo took over with back-to-back kills including the set-clinching off the block hammer. The squad did it with skipper Karl Baysa sitting on the bench after sustaining a right wrist injury midway in the frame.
Ateneo again engaged NU in a tight battle in the second set. Another error on the service line by Josh Villanueva tied the frame at 23 before the Blue Eagles snatched the last two points capped by a quick drop by setter Ish Polvorosa, who dished out 39 of the team's 40 excellents sets, to deceive the Bulldogs’ block for a commanding 2-0 match lead.
The Bulldogs refused to go down without a fight, staving off a scare from the Blue Eagles in the third set. Ateneo saved five set points to narrow down NU’s lead to 24-23 before Bryan Bagunas pounded a missile to the Blue Eagles’ back row to seal the frame.
But that proved to be a minor delay for Ateneo as the Blue Eagles held their ground in the fourth frame to extend their league winning streak against the Bulldogs to nine.
Bryan Bagunas scored 23 points while Season 78 Rookie of the Year James Natividad and Fauzi Ismail scoring eight each for NU, which gave away 41 points of errors.
NU dropped to 1-1 and will face winless Adamson on Sunday.
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