As they continue their rampage through the season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles overpowered the FEU Tamaraws 17-25, 25-17, 25-17, 27-25 at the San Juan Arena.
Padding his claim on a back-to-back MVP run, Marck Espejo dominated the net, dropping 21 points on 19 for 33 spiking. His impeccable attacking bolstered a 57-39 spike advantage for the Eagles, who piled on 33 errors to FEU’s 22.
The Tamaraws, who were at a distinct height disadvantage, valiantly tried to mix up their attacks as always. They utilized all the spikers they had, even those at the back row, but ultimately succumbed to an impenetrable Ateneo blocking wall that adjusted to their plays. Veteran Greg Dolor led all Tamaraws with 11 points while middle blocker, Lucky Margate and rookie Richard Solis each pitched in 10 points.
The Tams leapt on the boys from Katipunan in the first set, displaying a relentless array of combination plays. After dropping the first set, Ateneo read FEU’s spiking patterns flawlessly, as blockers leapt at the perfect time to catch FEU’s high-fliers. Ateneo punished the Tams in the following two sets, and were on their way to clinching an easy set win in the fourth frame as they were up, 17-14. A string of powerful hits allowed the Tams to creep back and take the lead, 22-21. Consecutive team blocks placed ADMU at a 24-22 advantage before an error and a service from Joshua Barrica sent the match into deuce. Clutch spikes from last season’s RoY/MVP, Marck Espejo, notched the match for Ateneo.
The Eagles now sit at first place with a 10-2 ranking with their ninth consecutive win while the Tams sit at fifth with a 5-8 slate.
A win against La Salle on Feb 18 at the MoA Arena will clinch first place for the Blue Eagles and a twice-to-beat advantage in the first round of the Final Four. FEU has eight days to prepare for their final game of the season against the winless UE Red Warriors at the San Juan Arena.
Ateneo – Espejo 21, Marasigan 15, Intal 14, Polvorosa 8, Rivera I. 7, Villanueva 6, Baysa 1, Señoren 0, Rivera B. (L) 0
FEU – Dolor 11, Margate 10, Solis 10, Gacutan 7, Cayaban 5, Camcam 4, Barrica 3, Refugia 1, Paler 0, Marmeto L. (L) 0, Marmeto R. (L) 0