Blue Eagles eye sweep, Bulldogs want revenge
Mark Escarlote on Apr 07, 2017 11:55 PM
Ateneo de Manila attempts to punch and outright Finals berth.
Three-peat seeking Ateneo de Manila University looks to jump straight to the Finals, but National University is out to block the Blue Eagles’ path Saturday at the close of the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament elimination round.
Only one win separates Ateneo from an outright spot in the best-of-three championship series and the Blue Eagles must keep their guards up when they meet the Bulldogs in their 8:00 a.m. battle at the Big Dome.
Ateneo is undefeated in 13 games while NU is on an 11-game winning streak at second spot with a 12-1 win-loss record.
Both teams are already assured of spots in the Final Four and are armed with twice-to-beat advantages.
Meanwhile, University of Sto. Tomas and Far Eastern University collide in a warmup before the semis at 10:00 a.m., which will air live over ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166 and via livestream.
FEU sits at third spot with a 7-6 slate while UST holds a 6-7 card. The Tamaraws already locked the third seed in the semis holding a superior quotient in case the Tigers force a tie at 7-7 record.
A win by Ateneo will put NU, FEU and UST in a stepladder semifinals. The twice-to-beat Bulldogs will go up against the survivor between the Tams and Tigers.
Blue Eagles head coach Oliver Almadro said that they are focused on accomplishing their task first and are not distracted by the pressure of sweeping the elims.
“Ever since naman na nakaharap namin sa Finals ang NU for the first time nandoon na ang pressure. I guess nasanay na kami sa pressure. It’s how you handle the pressure that’s what’s important,” he said. “My players really prepared well. Hindi namin masyadong pinoproblema ‘yan, iniintindi kung may talo kami o walang talo. What’s important for us is to be in the Finals again and opportunity to be champions again.”
Almadro added that his wards led by three-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo, 6-foot-8 Tony Koyfman and veterans Josh Villanueva, Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa know the importance of the match. Unlike other teams, they do talk about what’s at stake just to ease the pressure.
“Sa akin hindi ko ‘yan kinikimkim, we talk about it. Nandyan na yan eh. Di mo naman pwedeng takasan yan eh,” he said. “We talk about it kasi the more na iiwasan mo, the more na kikimkimin mo (mas mapi-pressure ka). Ang maganda naman sa mga players ko they are so wise to accept kung ano ang mga nangyayari.”
Ateneo is coming off a one-week break after sweeping De La Salle University, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21 and is looking to make a repeat of its 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16, win against NU in the first round exactly two months ago.
But NU has a different plan in mind.
The Bulldogs hope to use the momentum of their winning romp to break a nine-game losing streak against the Blue Eagles.
“Hinahabol talaga namin na matapatan ang skills ng Ateneo,” said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin.
Fauzi Ismail, Bryan Bagunas, James Natividad and Kim Malabunga are expected to bring their A-game to shoot down the Blue Eagles.
If NU wins, the Bulldogs will remain at no. 2 with Ateneo still ahead with a higher quotient in case of a tie at 13-1 and will take on FEU in the Final Four.
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