Blue Eagles sweep elims, advance straight to the Finals

Mark Escarlote on Apr 08, 2017 10:10 AM
Blue Eagles sweep elims, advance straight to the Finals
Led by Marck Espejo, Ateneo de Manila University marched straight to the Finals after sweeping the elimination round.

Three-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo played with a fever but still delivered the same monster production to help the three-peat seeking Ateneo de Manila make history with a clean 14-game sweep of the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball tournament eliminations Saturday at the Big Dome.

Espejo dropped a game-high 16 points in the Blue Eagles’ emphatic, 25-17, 25-21, 25-16, win against archrival National University as Ateneo secured an outright best-of-three Finals seat. 

“It's history, but 'di pa tapos (ang laban). We have to reset, we have to go back to start. 14-0 is now history,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro.

The Katipunan-based squad snapped the 11-game winning streak of the Bulldogs while extending their winning run to 28 in a row since last season. Ateneo will have more than two weeks to prepare as it awaits its championship round opponent.

NU, which dropped to 12-2, will carry a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. Far Eastern University and University of Sto. Tomas will face off in the knockout first phase of the stepladder semis.  

“We are now in the Finals but the job is not yet done,” added Almadro, whose wards stretched their head-to-head winning streak against NU to 10 straight since Season 77. “We will prepare for the championship.”

Espejo smashed 12 attacks and added four kill blocks despite playing under the weather. Six-foot-8 Antony Koyfman had 11 markers while Rex Intal scored 10 for the Blue Eagles. Ish Polvorosa dished out 31 excellent sets for Ateneo.      

The Blue Eagles showed composure in the second set, overhauling a 7-12 deficit with a huge rally led by Espejo and Koyfman.

Koyman broke a 20-20 tie in the second, winning the joust before NU gave Ateneo a 22-20 lead after committing an error. Bulldogs hitter Fauzi Ismail smashed his attack straight to the net in the next play followed by an Espejo kill block. Bryan Bagunas saved a set point for NU before Intal closed the frame with a defensive gem at the net.

Ateneo raced to a 13-6 gap in the third to control the outcome of the match.

“The second set kasi, may tendency na they want to finish it right away, so medyo nagmadali,” said Almadro. “So I just told them to execute properly. Hindi naman kinakailangan na spectacular eh. So just let NU play, and let's play our style.”      

“NU played well but I guess my players are prepared also. And 'yun ang pinakamaganda doon,” he added.

Bagunas finished with nine points while Ismail got seven for NU.



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