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Ateneo sweeps NU for inaugural Spikers’ Turf title

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Coming from behind for a good part of the match, the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles rallied and took Game Two of the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference Finals over the National University Bulldogs in four sets 25-23, 25-21, 38-40, 25-19 completing a sweep of the tournament at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

The Blue Eagles were down by five heading into the second technical timeout in each of the first two sets but found ways to overcome the deficit through the play making of setter Ish Polvorosa. They repeated the feat in the third set, erasing NU’s six point lead and nabbing championship point at 24-22. The Bulldogs, however, refused to go quietly, scoring three consecutive points and taking the lead in a deuce, 25-24. What followed was the most hectic sequence in the league’s history with both teams playing hot potato with the set clinching point. NU had more chances at set point but relinquished the advantage with unforced errors. NU open hitter, Bryan Bagunas and Madzlan Gampong brought their team to the fourth set; the latter blocking an Espejo kill and the former nailing an open hit to end the longest set in tournament history.

The fourth set ended anti-climacticly as the defending UAAP champs pounded NU into submission. Conference MVP, Marck Espejo also took home the Finals MVP plum. The Marikina native top scored Game Two with 24 points off 18 attacks, three blocks, and three aces. Middle blocker Rex Intal added 16 points, while his fellow middle hitter Josh Villanueva contributed 11.

After the match, Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro expressed satisfaction with what his team accomplished but still acknowledged that his team still had things to work on before the much-awaited UAAP Season. “I’m very happy with what the team accomplished. Everyone worked really hard. This will definitely boost our confidence for the upcoming UAAP but still there a lot of things we need to work on before then. Nakita niyo naman this tournament I was rotating my players, trying to get everyone exposure. Hopefully it pays off for us,” Almadro said saying that he would like his players to focus now on the upcoming UAAP Beach Volleyball tournament this October 9. Ateneo will send sand veterans Ysay Marasigan and Karl Baysa and add Marck Espejo, a first time participant. “It’s about time na mahirapan naman siya,” Almadro jokingly quipped when asked anout Espejo’s prospects in the sand courts.

Coach O also praised the heart of his sophomore Janjan Rivera and rookie libero Manuel Sumanguid who both played key roles in the win despite having injuries.

Bagunas led all Bulldogs with 22 markers while Madz Gampong and James Natividad added 15 and 12 points respectively. NU owed all three of their losses to Ateneo this season. Still, the Bulldogs consider their Spikers’ Turf campaign a success given their youth. “Mga bata pa talaga ‘yung players ko. Ok na nakakuha kami ng isang set para makakuha ng kumpiyansa,” said NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin.

Ateneo is the first team to win a Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Title with the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters winning the inagural club title last July.

The Scores

Ateneo (3) -Espejo 24, Intal 16, Villanueva 12, Marasigan 11, Rivera 9, Baysa 2, Medalla 1, Polvorosa 0, Koyfman 0, Magadia 0, Posadas (L), Sumanguid (L)

NU (1) – Bagunas 22, Gampong 15, Natividad 12, Saura 10, Malabunga 6, Mangulabnan 1, Marcos (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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