PERFECT SEASON: Blue Eagles earn title no. 3
Mark Escarlote on May 06, 2017 02:43 PM
Ateneo de Manila collected its third straight men's title.
Ateneo de Manila came back from a 1-2 match deficit to claim its third straight title at the expense of bitter rival National University, 18-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13, Saturday in Game 2 of the 79th UAAP men’s volleyball best-of-three Finals at the Big Dome.
The Blue Eagles completed a historic 16-game season sweep to cement their dynasty and domination against the Bulldogs whom they tamed for 12 straight head-to-head matchups since Season 77. Ateneo extended its winning streak to 30 straight since last season.
Four-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo sealed his incredible season with a stellar performance as he led the Katipunan-based squad recover from a match deficit to a dramatic finish that gave outgoing players Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva a fitting sendoff gift.
Espejo uncorked 27 points including 25 coming off attacks while Tony Koyfman, who won Finals MVP, added 11 markers anchored on nine kills. The fourth year hitter also provided the spark on defense with 18 excellent receptions.
Villanueva and Intal ended their collegiate career with 10 points each for Ateneo. Three-time Best Setter winner Ish Polvorosa tallied 62 excellent sets that the Blue Eagles managed to convert to 57 attacks.
"From the very beginning 'di in-expect na maka-sweep kami but the Lord is so good, he gave us strength and rescued us I admire my players, the maturity and resiliency of my players," said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. "They just believed na kaya nila 'yung imposible."
Ateneo buried NU early in the fourth to shift the momentum to their side before sinking the deathblow on the Bulldogs in the fifth frame.
The Bulldogs waxed-hot early in the fifth set, building a 4-1 lead. The Blue Eagles tied the set at 8 before taking the lead, 11-9, with back-to-back kill blocks. Espejo extended Ateneo's lead to 12-9 with an off the block kill.
NU saved a point after Karl Baysa committed a service error but Espejo smashed another kill for a 13-10 lead. Byran Bagunas answered with a kill and the Bulldogs scored another point in front of the net. Francis Saura tied it at 13 with a well-timed kill block.
Intal put Ateneo at matchpoint with an off the block kill before Espejo ended the match with a kill block on Fauzi Ismail.
The Blue Eagles defeated the Bulldogs in a come-from-behind, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, fashion in the series opener last Tuesday.
Ismail scored 24 points including 19 from attacks while Bryan Bagunas and Kim Malabunga finished with 20 and 11 markers, respectively, for NU, which again came up short of reclaiming the crown it last held in Season 76.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles