The National University (NU) Bulldogs leaned on their long-limbed spikers to propel an upset hungry herd of Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 25-21,15-13 in the inaugural Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the FilOil Flying V Arena last Wednesday.
Sophomore wing hitter, Bryan Bagunas topped all scorers with 23 points, as well as added five digs and seven excellent receptions. Veteran open hitter, Fauzi Ismail followed with 22 points, while rookie, Madzlan Gampong pitched in 19 markers. The Bulldogs had trouble with their errors in nearly every set, amassing 41 errors. However, the Samapaloc based squad held strong with their play at the net and composure down the stretch.
The opening set was incredibly close with FEU taking control early up until the second technical timeout when the Bulldogs finally showed up. With the set tied at 23-all, Ismail rescued the Bulldogs, first scoring off a kill from the right side of the net then following up with an ace that gave them a 1-0 lead.
The Tamaraws opened the second frame with the same initial energy from the set before but were able to maintain it throughout. The boys from Recto jumped out to an 11-6 lead and countered any NU advance to take the set. NU buried themselves in the third set with nine errors in the frame alone and lackluster floor defense. Down two sets to one, NU head coach, Dante Alinsunurin stated that he had confidence in his young squad to pick themselves up.
“Ang gusto ko sila ‘yung makapagdecide ng gagawin nila. Ayoko na sana na ako ‘yung magmamando sa kanila ng mga gagawin,” Alinsunurin said. “Kaya hindi ako tumatawag ng timeout eh. Gusto lang naman ng mga bata na maramdaman nila na nandito lang kami sa likod nila.”
His boys responded in the fourth set, limiting their errors and blasting the FEU defense for an early five point lead, 10-5. FEU slowly fought back and trimmed the NU lead down to two, 22-20 off powerful hitting from Jeric Gacutan. The Bulldogs were able to close the set from there thanks to FEU’s errors and a kill from Bagunas.
The Tamaraws looked to have the final set in hand with multiple high-effort plays on floor defense resulting to an 11-8 lead prompting an NU timeout. The Bulldogs responded and rattled off four straight points before FEU tied the set up at 12 off a Peter Quiel quick attack. An FEU net touch followed by a Bryan Bagunas open hit delivered NU to set point, 14-12. Jeric Gacutan scored off a running hit and kept the FEU cause alive, 14-13. However, Bagunas retaliated with a powerful cross-court hit that sealed the NU win.
FEU had five players in double digits led by Jeric Gacutan’s 15, followed by Jude Garcia’s 13, Josh Barrica’s 11, Peter Quiel’s 11, and JP Bugaoan’s 10 – a positive sign for a team that has opted to field only their young players for the tournament.
With a 4-0 record, NU will face fellow undefeated team, EAC Generals in their final match of the initial elmination round on Monday, August 10. On the other hand, 1-3 FEU will either do or die against the 1-3 Mapua Cardinals also on Monday. The winner of the match moves on to the Top 8 phas of the tournament.
NU (3) – Bagunas 23, Ismail 22, Gampong 19, Malabubga 9, Capal 3, Saura 3, Baysac 1, Mangulabnan 0, Dayandante 0, Natividad 0, Marcos (L)
FEU (2) – Gacutan 15, Garcia 13, Barrica 11, Quiel 11, Bugaoan 10, Dolor 4, Navas 1, Silang 1, Paler 0, Marmeto (L)