In a tight race for a twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Men’s Volleyball Final Four, the National University Bulldogs are still within sniffing distance after sweeping the Far Eastern University Tamaraws 28-26, 25-18, 25-20 at the SM MoA Arena.
Both teams refused to give way in the opening set, working off their respective explosive offenses. Neither team led by more than two as the set dragged into a deuce. NU had two initial shots at set point but blew their opportunity with service errors. FEU wrestled away a 26-25 lead but that was their last hoorah. Jeric Gacutan fired a backrow hit into the net, JP Bugaoan sent a running hit long, then Joshua Barrica hit nothing but net in the set’s clinching point.
FEU started strong in the second set, erasing a three-point NU lead to take a 15-13 lead. FEU, however, suffered another collapse, scoring just three points the rest of the way as they could not manage a proper pass. NU also took control of the third set in one quick swoop. Trailing 17-20, Madz Gampong and Vince Mangulabnan led NU’s 8-0 run to end the match.
Tawi-Tawi native Madz Gampong recorded a game-high 17 points while Francis Saura added 11 markers. Open hitter Bryan Bagunas sat out the match still nursing a lower body injury.
At 8-4, NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin knows his team needs to keep winning and hope Adamson (9-3) loses in order to clinch the second seed.
“Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila kailangan manalo tayo ng manalo. Bahala na kung anong seed tayo. Last year, kinaya naman natin talunin ‘yung UST kahit twice-to-beat sila,” Alinsunrin thought.
Rookie Jude Garcia tallied 11 points for FEU while graduating utility hitter Jeric Gacutan managed 10.
FEU dropped to fifth, half a game behind the UP Maroons at 6-7 for the last Final Four spot.
NU takes on the De La Salle University Green Spikers on Wednesday, April 6, 8 a.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre. FEU faces the UST Tigers in their final match of the elimination round on Wednesday, April 13 also at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
NU (3) – Gampong 17, Saura 11, Malabunga 6, Natividad 6, Baysac 5, Mangulabnan 3, Bagunas 1, Ancheta 0, Sumagui 0, Marcos (L)
FEU (0) – Garcia 11, Gacutan 10, Quiel 6, Dolor 4, Barrica 3, Paler 3, Solis 2, Bugaoan 2, Solis 0, Silang 0, Villegas 0, Marmeto L. (L), Marmeto R. (L)