UAAP Finals: NU knocks Ateneo off the throne, claims third title

Mark Escarlote on May 02, 2018 02:23 PM
NU knocks Ateneo off the throne, claims third title
Bryan Bagunas made true to his promise of winning it all for National University as the Bulldogs ended the three-year reign of Ateneo de Manila.

Bryan Bagunas provided the offensive spark while the rest of National University Bulldogs played their roles well to topple the three-year dynasty of Ateneo de Manila University.

The Bulldogs reclaimed the crown they lost three years ago to their archrivals with an emphatic 25-20, 31-29, 22-25, 33-31, win to complete a clean sweep of the best-of-three UAAP Season 80 men’s volleyball Finals series Wednesday at the Big Dome.

The Finals Most Valuable Player Bagunas was on fire all game long, pounding missiles from all angles while NU’s vaunted defense held fort to frustrate the Blue Eagles’ hitters including five-time Season MVP Marck Espejo and bag their third overall title.

Bagunas scored 22 points off 17 attacks, four kill blocks and a service ace for NU. James Natividad scored 18 markers while Kim Malabunga added 10 for the Bulldogs, who took Game 1 in straight sets, 25-20, 25-19, 25-23, last Saturday.

"(Sinabi ko sa kanila kanina) na chance na natin ngayon, Chance na natin na makuha ulit ang kampeonato kasi sa tao-tao lamang tayo. Tapos yung kalaban natin galing sa best-of-three (sic) na semifinals kaya sobrang yung kondisyon nila medyo bumaba kaya sabi namin kayang-kaya namin," said NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who steered the Bulldogs back into the throne since winning it all in Season 76 before falling short in the next three years in the Finals.   

After letting the third set slip off its hands, NU opened the fourth set with a 9-3 lead but the Blue Eagles came back to take a 14-13 lead. Espejo committed a service error in the next play but Gian Glorioso scored two straight points followed by a Bulldogs error to give Ateneo a 17-14 lead.  

The Bulldogs fought back to take a 20-18 lead capped by back-to-back errors by Espejo and a kill by Bagunas. The Blue Eagles tied it again at 20. Kim Malabunga scored on a kill block before Chumason Njigha scored on a down the line kill. 

Espejo gave Ateneo the lead, 24-23, but overcooked his service in the next play. Glorioso scored on a quick attack but NU libero Rikky Marcos got the point on a over reception that Ateneo failed to retrieve for a 25-25 game. The Bulldogs took another point bu the Blue Eagles equalized.

Ron Medalla's attack went long but Espejo answered to tie it at 27. Medalla committed a service error before Espejo again saved a match point on an off the block hit.

Bagunas smashed a hit to an open back row before Espejo saved another point. Ateneo committed a miscue once again but Bagunas' service went short, hitting the net for  a 30-30 tie.

Natividad scored on a combination play before Medalla equalized on a cross court hit. Natividad hammered an attack off a combination play before Medalla surrendered the title with a hit that went long.   

Ateneo after losing the first two sets built a 13-7 lead in the third frame but the Bulldogs closed the gap, 23-21. NU was whistled for an error in the next before saving a set point.

Medalla finished the set with a down the line hit.      

Espejo scored 30 points on 26 attacks and four kill blocks while adding 24 excellent receptions and nine digs in his last stint with the blue and white. Medalla had 16 markers while Glorioso finished with 10.  

NU found itself in trouble in the second set as the Bulldogs saw its 23-17 lead dwindle to 23-22 on back-to-back setting errors by Kim Dayandante.

John-john Rivera threw away his service in the next play but an attack by Espejo followed by a kill block by five-time Best Setter Ish Polvorosa saved two match points for Ateneo.

The Blue Eagles saved three more match points before taking a 28-27 lead on an Espejo off the block hit. James Natividad tied it at 28 before taking back the advantage, 29-28.

Espejo saved another set point for Ateneo but the Blue Eagle sent his service short before getting denied by Gampong as NU took a 2-0 match lead.



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