With their floor defense and service reception taking a dive, the National University Bulldogs still managed to bring home their sixth win at the expense of the struggling University of the East Warriors 25-20, 18-25, 25-21, 29-27 in the UAAP Men’s Volleyball Tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
After an easy first set win in which they led wire-to-wire, NU collapsed in the following sets. UE easily took the second frame through smart target serving and NU’s errors. The third frame was tight throughout with neither team taking a lead larger than two. Tied at 21, NU’s Kim Malabunga threw down a mean quick hit for the lead. Team captain Vince Mangulabnan then took to the service line and punished UE’s backline. The Warriors failed to score another point as NU closed out with back-to-back block kills.
The fourth frame was even tighter as the lead see-sawed between both squads. NU got the first crack at match point 24-23, but a net interference call on the following point prolonged the match. In the end, clutch digs and blocks saved the Bulldogs from a fifth frame. After a long rally, NU’s Madz Gampong scored off an opposite set to bring NU to their fifth match point, 28-27. NU’s Ricky Marcos then pulled off a beautiful dig on a Noel Alba hit to set up James Natividad’s match-winning smash.
Gampong towed the NU offense with 21 points, Bryan Bagunas added 17, while James Natividad managed 12 markers.
“Ganoon talaga kapag bata, minsan inconsistent pa talaga. Hindi pa namin ma-sustain ‘yung magaganda naming simula minsan,” said NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin. “Ang maganda na rin lang nabigyan talaga kami ng challenge ngayon. Nakita namin mag-react ‘yung mga bata sa mga dikitang sitwasyon.”
UE team captain Edward Camposani shifted to the middle hitter position and delivered 18 markers while open hutter Vince Abrot punched in 17.
NU (6-3) takes on the league-leading Ateneo Blue Eagles (7-1) on Sunday, March 13, 10 a.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre. UE (0-9) faces the University of the Philippines Maroons (4-4) on the same day and venue.
NU (3) – Gampong 21, Bagunas 17, Natividad 12, Malabunga 9, Mangulabnan 4, Saura 4, Baysac 1, Ancheta 0, Dayandante 0, Ogoc 0, Marcos (L)
UE (1) – Camposano 18, Abrot 17, Ortega 8, Alba 7, Yen Cheung 3, Adviento 1, Magdaong 1, Gopio 1, Imperial 0, Inoferio (L)