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Ateneo seizes Game One over NCBA in Spikers’ Turf semis

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The Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles continues to dominate the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference, crushing the National College of Business and Arts (NCBA) Wildcats in Game One of the best-of-three semifinals series 25-9, 25-22, 25-19 at the FilOil Flying V Arena early Monday afternoon.

Ateneo remained unbeaten through ten tournament matches. Two-time UAAP MVP Marck Espejo and birthday-boy Rex Intal towed the Eagles in this match, each registering 13 points to lead Ateneo’s balanced attack. Middle blocker Josh Villanueva followed with 12 markers while team captain Ysay Marasigan dropped 10 points. Rookie, Ron Medalla hopped off the bench and dished out six points in a single set of action.

Coming from a week long lay-off, the Blue Eagles shrugged off their usual early game lag and crushed NCBA in the opening set. This delighted Ateneo head coach, Oliver Almadro who dearly values his team’s gamesmanship and consistency.

“I’m very happy with how the team played especially early in the game. ‘Nung first set, parang hinihintay kami ng NCBA gumalaw kaya maaga kami nakalamang. ‘Nung mga sumunod na set, mas dikit na ‘yung score and I’m very happy na kumapit ‘yung mga players ko. They already know its hard when you give your opponents confidence,” said Almadro.

The Blue Eagles sizzled for an advantage in every measured skill, both scoring and non-scoring highlighted by a 45-25 spiking advantage. The reigning UAAP champs also tallied a season-low 17 errors.

Three time Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletics Association champions, NCBA had match-long troubles in setting up their offense owing to Ateneo’s superior blocking and serving. Guest player Edwin Tolentino and off-the-bench open hitter Ralph Oclima each went for a team-high eight points while middle blocker Reyson Fuentes and setter Lee Nidua followed with four points apiece.

NCBA came-off a do-or-die tiff with the DLSU Green Spikers last Saturday. Had they won their previous match against the UP Maroons, the Wildcats would have booked a ticket straight to the semis. NCBA head coach, Ernesto Balubar, however, saw their UP loss as a blessing in disguise.

“Marami kaming naging problema nung natalo kami sa UP. Maganda na rin na nagkaroon kami ng time na pag-usapan ‘yung mga dapat pag-usapan at maayos ‘yung mga personal issues namin na set-aside by this time [win against La Salle]. Mas naging handa kami for Ateneo,” Balubar said after their win against the Green Spikers.

NCBA still has a shot at keeping their season alive should they win in Game Two of the series on Wednesday, Spetember 9. The winner of this series will face the victor of the NU-EAC best-of-three for the inaugural Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Championship.

The Scores

Ateneo (3) – Espejo 13, Intal 13, Villanueva 12, Marasigan 10, Medalla 6, Polvorosa 2, Rivera 2, Baysa 0, Koyfman 0, Magadia 0, Sto. Tomas 0, Sumanguid (L)

NCBA (0) – Oclima R. 8, Tolentino 8, Fuentes 4, Nidua 4, Valenzuela 3, Domigo 2, Canlas 1, Oclima C. 1, Ugoy 0, Escobido (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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