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Tiebreaker Times


Espejo drops 27 as Ateneo bucks slow start against FEU to continue unbeaten run

Ever since the V-League added a men’s division, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles have yet to lose a match. And the streak was extended to 23 games on Sunday afternoon, as the three-peat seeking Blue Eagles outlasted the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in four sets, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20.

As has been the norm for the spikers from Loyola Heights for the last four years, incoming super senior Marck Espejo led Ateneo with 27 points. But it was the middle blockers of the defending champions that caught the eye of coach Oliver Almadro.

“This is our first official tournament since the UAAP. Good thing yung mga middle ko delivered right away. Si Karl [Baysa] galing sa injury, si John [Rivera] is coming off a shoulder injury, si Ron [Medalla] ganun din,” shared Almadro, who is seeking the personal feat of becoming only the second coach in league history to win the triple crown. “Nandiyan naman yung core ng team ko e. What’s important is they know how and who will step up.”

And it was Baysa who converted when the Tamaraws were creeping up during the fourth set, with Espejo in the backline.

With Ateneo up, 22-17, Ron Medalla cramped up after an attack error that forced him out of the game. A kill block by JP Bugaoan and an ace by Redijohn Paler sliced the lead to just two.

After an Almadro timeout, Baysa was able to score off the block against Bugaoan, while a crosscourt kill by Hermino Labao sent Ateneo to match point. A kill by Baysa off an FEU misreception extended Ateneo’s streak.

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Rivera added 11 markers, while Medalla and UAAP Season 79 Rookie of the Year Chumason Njigha chipped in eight markers each. Ish Polvorosa glued things together, dishing out 43 excellent sets.

“Honestly, halata na wala si Tony [Koyfman], wala si Rex [Intal], and wala si Josh [Villanueva] but I always tell my players na to find away, we have to make most with what we have,” added Almadro. “Hindi naman ugali yung naghahanap ng wala. What’s important is your motivation and your goal is always incoming, incoming, and incoming.”

Skipper Richard Solis and Jude Garcia paced FEU with 14 points each.

Ateneo will next face age-old rivals San Beda Red Spikers on Wednesday, September 6 at 8:00am. FEU, on the other hand, will have a tough second assignment, taking on the National University Bulldogs on the same day at 10:00am.

The Scores:

ADMU (3) – Espejo 27, Rivera 11, Medalla 8, Njigha 8, Glorioso 5, Baysa 5, Polvorosa 3, Labao 1, Trinidad 0, Sumanguid (L)

FEU (1) – Solis 14, Garcia 14, Paler 8, Bugaoan 6, Quiel 5, Suarez 1, Silang 0, Detablan 0, Salbsab 0, Bautista 0, Provido 0, Marmeto (L), Barrica (L).

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