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Ateneo survives tough UST challenge, brings home Ateneo’s first beach volley title

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Needing every bit of their thrice-to-beat advantage, Ateneo’s Ysay Marasigan and Marck Espejo once again set the standard for Ateneo volleyball, bringing the program its first UAAP Beach Volleyball championship at the expense of perennial contenders, UST’s Kris Roy Guzman and Anthony Arbasto in the tournament’s Finals series.

Playing from the morning to the afternoon, UST pushed Ateneo to the brink, winning two games out of three matches and forcing a do-or-die Game Four but they ran out of gas in the end.

The fiery uncle-nephew pair of Guzman and Arbasto first erased Ateneo’s thrice-to-beat advantage in the day’s first match, 21-13, 21-17. Under the extreme heat of the morning sun, the Ateneans struggled to keep their attacks and serves in play, opening the door for a UST walloping and turning the Finals into a virtual best-of-three.

The Blue Eagles nearly blew consecutive matches but pulled their act together just in time to power through the Tigers in Game Two, 19-21, 21-15, 15-12. UST imposed their scrappy, heavily defensive pace in the opening set, winning through Arbasto’s blocking and Guzman’s slippery drop balls. But the Eagles finally imposed their power advantage in the second set with both Marasigan and Espejo finishing plays with their unrivaled power. The Ateneans built lofty leads early in the second and third set to come within just a game of the championship.

UST, however, had one more tremendous performance under their belts, cruising to a Game Three win, 21-14, 21-16. The Tigers’ energy and sense of urgency seemed to overwhelm Marasigan and Espejo who had not been in a do-or-die situation all season. The Tigers kept multiple plays alive of sheer effort and will, while Ateneo had a tough time with their errors.

In just 45 minutes of rest, Marasigan and Espejo completely turned their outlook around and forcefully took Game Four and the title, 21-16, 21-19. Playing with supreme aggressiveness, Ateneo overpowered UST whose hustle could not overcome Maraisgan and Espejo’s thundering hits. After taking the first set handily, Ateneo led the following frame 16-11 and were cruising to the title. The Tomosinos, however, rallied back to knot the set at 18 off scrappy attacks and terrific floor defense. The set came down to several balls that barely hit the line, with Ateneo eventually catching enough breaks to take the title in straight sets.

Although Marck Espejo was praised profusely for his immediate adjustment to the sand court, it was Ysay Marasigan’s veteran leadership and play that buoyed the pair to a championship. Marasigan went home with the MVP Award.

“Sobrang saya. Four years ako nag-beach volleyball, last year ko na din, so sabi ko ibibigay ko na ‘yung lahat ko – doon talaga ako pumupulot ng inspiration,” Marasigan said.

“Ginawa ko lang talaga ‘yung lahat ko para matulungan si Ysay manalo kasi matagal niya na ‘to pinagtrabahuhan. Ang ganda pa ng nilalaro niya tapos last year niya pa. Para sa kanya talaga ‘yung championship na ito,” Espejo, the third-year skipper, remarked who just had a week and a half to prepare for the tournament.

Ateneo coasted through the elimination round, sweeping all seven games to earn their Finals berth.

UST, on the other hand, worked their way up the grueling stepladder from third place. They took down FEU and a twice-to-beat NU side last Saturday, Day 5 of tje tournament which lasted through the wee hours of the night. The Tigers settle for their second consecutive bridesmaid finish but will have Guzman for two more seasons and Arbasto for three.

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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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