UAAP VOLLEYBALL: Ateneo marches into the Finals for fifth straight season

Mark Escarlote on Apr 25, 2018 04:14 PM
Ateneo marches into the Finals for fifth straight season
Three-time defending champion Ateneo de Manila University hurdled Far Eastern University's Final Four twice-to-beat advantage to advance in the championship round for the fifth straight year.

Four-time Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo powered the three-time defending champion Ateneo de Manila University past Far Eastern University, 25-19, 18-25, 25-22, 25-18, Wednesday in the winner-take-all Final Four battle of the UAAP Season 80 men’s volleyball tournament at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Espejo, coming off a record-setting 55-point performance in the series opener, wreaked havoc on offense to complete the Blue Eagles’ fifth straight Finals appearance despite having their backs against the wall against the twice-to-beat Tamaraws.         

Ateneo will take on archrival National University for the fifth season in a row. Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals is on Saturday at the Big Dome.

Espejo had 37 points off 34 attacks and three kill blocks while adding 10 digs for an all-around performance. Ron Medalla had nine markers while skipper Karl Baysa and Chumason Njigha combined for 15 points for the Blue Eagles.

Graduating setter Ish Polvorosa tallied 40 excellent sets in Ateneo's 59 attacks while libero Manuel Sumanguid had 25 excellent receptions and 19 digs for the Blue Eagles.  

“Well ‘yun siguro, ‘yung players kasi they sacrificed a lot, inaral nila isa-isa ang kalaban, and they really wanted it,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. “My players really wanted this.”

“Sabi nila last night, coach we will never back down. Noong narinig ko ‘yun, ano naman gagawin ko? Ibig sabihin, all out sila for today,” he added. “I thank them kasi they believe in the process of just doing right, hindi kailangan spectacular, tamang execution.” 

Espejo's full arsenal was on display the whole game and his scoring prowess rubbed in on his teammates especially in the fourth as Ateneo pulled away early and built a 23-13 lead before finising off the Tams. 

The Blue Eagles took the Final Four opener last Saturday in five sets, 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9, behind Espejo’s monster performance.

The two squads split the first two sets before engaging in tight battle in the third.

FEU erased a 14-17 deficit in the third frame, knotting the set 18. Espejo broke the tie with back-to-back hits for a 22-20 lead. The fifth year hitter served long in the next play but made ammends on his miscue with back-to-back spikes from the backrow for a 24-21 lead.

Richard Solis saved a set point on an off the block kill but Ateneo skipper Karl Baysa sealed the frame with a crosscourt smash.    

FEU suffered another painful setback as the Tams’ Finals drought extended to five straight years.

The Tamaraws, who swept Ateneo in the elimination round, got 14 points from Redijohn Paler, 11 from Jude Garcia and 10 coming from JP Bugaoan.



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