Blue Eagles clinch first Final Four berth
Mark Escarlote on Mar 12, 2017 01:47 PM
Ateneo de Manila won its ninth straight match and in the process bagged a Final Four seat.
Three-peat seeking Ateneo de Manila kept its clean slate secured the first Final Four spot Sunday with a 25-19, 26-28, 25-15, 25-16, win over the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament at the Big Dome.
The Blue Eagles snatched their ninth straight win to advance to their fourth straight Final Four appearance.
Three-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo finished with 19 points with 15 coming off attacks while Rex Intal got 16 points anchored on four kill blocks for the Katipunan-based squad, which won its 23rd straight match since last season.
Graduating player Josh Villanueva and sophomore Ron Medalla scored 15 and 11 points, respectively, for the Blue Eagles.
Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro said that he’s proud of his team’s hot roll but kept reminding his wards to keep their eyes on the prize.
“Yes, 9-0, pero sabi ko nga sa mga players ko, it's hard to be No. 1 but it's harder to stay at No. 1,” he said. “’Yun ang nasa mindset namin ngayon, it's harder to stay at No. 1. So we have to do everything para maka-stay doon and ma-achieve ang goal namin this year.”
Almadro admitted the he tried to experiment with his rotation with 6-foot-8 Tony Koyfman playing a relief role in the first three sets.
The mentor added that he was proud with his how his wards responded after the Maroons stole the second set.
“’Yan, nakuhanan kami ng set ng UP, so kailangan, may resiliency after that one-set loss. Learning experience, na-aral namin ang kailangan pa naming aralin,” he said. “And of course, nabibigyan namin ng time ang iba naming mga player.”
UP fell to 4-5 mark.
John Millete finished with 18 points while Alfred Valbuena had 12.
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