Opo hiningi ko po talaga ‘yung mga bola -- Ateneo's Espejo

Mark Escarlote on May 02, 2017 05:14 PM
Opo hiningi ko po talaga ‘yung mga bola -- Ateneo's Espejo
Noong na-block ako ng dalawang beses, siyempre as a player, mada-down ka. Pero fourth year na ako. Hindi na puwede dapat na mangyari sa akin ‘yun. Maturity lang talaga -- Marck Espejo

Three-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo knows when to step up big time for the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.

He puts to heart the saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’.

With National University making a searing rally that erased a five-point deficit and tied the fifth set at 13, Espejo – as expected – came to rescue the Blue Eagles from an impending defeat in Game 1 of the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball best-of-three Finals series at the Big Dome Tuesday.

Blocked twice in the previous play, setter Ish Polvorosa put the fate of Ateneo at the hands of their most trusted hitter and Espejo delivered.

The fourth year outside spiker hammered a thunderous attack to NU’s open back row that pushed Ateneo at match point before graduating player Rex Intal put the game away with a kill block on NU’s Fauzi Ismail.                    

The Blue Eagles defeated the Bulldogs in a come-from-behind, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, fashion to move a win closer to completing a historic sweep of the season and a three-peat, all thanks to Espejo’s heroics.

“Opo hiningi ko po talaga ‘yung mga bola kasi para sa blockers din, malito rin sila, pero ‘yung game na ito, hindi talaga tungkol sa akin eh. Tungkol talaga sa teammates ko, kasi tinulungan nila ako makabawi ulit,” said Espejo.

The Ateneo star finished with a game-high 29 points coming off 25 attacks, three kill blocks and an ace.

But Espejo admitted that he struggled at the start, partly due to the Blue Eagles’ long layoff since completing a 14-game elimination sweep last April 8 that propelled Ateneo in the Finals outright.   

“Kasi noong first set, medyo bagsak ako pero tinulungan nila ako makabawi, chine-cheer up nila ako, kino-compliment nila ako, siguro ‘yun ang malaking factor na nangyari ngayon,” he said. “Lumabas yung family sa loob ng court na kailangan mag-tulungan, kailangan walang down kailangan lahat magtutulungan talaga.”

Though Espejo wanted to credit the whole team for the win, it was obvious that his mental toughness carried Ateneo through adversity.

Any regular player will crumble under tremendous pressure in the endgame but not Espejo.

Blocked by Francis Saura and James Natividad on consecutive plays that evened the fifth frame at 13, Espejo still kept his composure and attacked.   

“Noong na-block ako ng dalawang beses, siyempre as a player, mada-down ka. Pero fourth year na ako. Hindi na puwede dapat na mangyari sa akin ‘yun. Maturity lang talaga,” he said. “Kasi alam ko ‘yung team ko and ‘yung setter ko, tiwala talaga sa akin kaya binalik sa akin.”

“So dapat, hindi ko sila biguin. Kailangan suklian ko yung mga paghihirap na binibigay nila para sa akin,” he added.

Espejo and the Blue Eagles will try to close the series on Saturday. Game 3, if needed, is on May 10.

 

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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