The Ateneo Blue Spikers, last year’s runner-up, are back in the finals. The Ateneans looked every bit as dominating as they have been all season long, ending Adamson’s run in 4 sets. Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro was available for an interview to give us his thoughts on the game.
Having a team with a player who has earned both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same year, is something any coach would want. Coach Oliver is lucky to have such a player in Marck Espejo, but one player does not make a team. Fortunately for the Ateneo coach, he has numerous weapons in his arsenal to support the former MVP. With team captain Ysay Marasigan stepping up and contributing 23 points and Josh Villanueva pitching in 11 for the team, coach Oliver is happy that the team was able to maximize its offense.
“Unang-una yun yung kailangan namin eh. Hindi kami dapat mag concentrate lang kay Marck Espejo. Although siya pa rin yung go-to guy namin, pero we really have to maximize lahat ng spikers, kasi talented naman silang lahat. We really have to maximize everybody,” said coach Oliver
After dominating the first two sets, 25-16 and 25-12, Ateneo dropped a close 3rd set, 26-28, to the young Adamson squad. Coach Oliver claimed that the team relaxed heading into the set, and when things didn’t go as planned, Ateneo tried to rush things, messing up their execution.
“We started slow sa start ng set eh, so nag dikitan. Adamson is a good team pa rin naman talaga. Kung hindi mo sila bibigyan ng intensity, mataas yung intensity nila, maganda gumalaw, may spikers din naman, magaling yung setter, magaling yung receiver at digger nila. So hindi pwedeng pa-relax relax sa Adamson eh. So yung third set we started slow and hindi namin na maximize lahat eh. So nag madali kami and hindi tama yung execution.”
With their opponent in the Finals still in contention, coach Oliver is happy for the brief respite that the team has earned. “Kahit papaano makapahinga naman yung players ko, kahit one day. They deserve a rest,” said the Ateneo coach.
Speaking of their Finals opponent, the UST Tigers and NU Bulldogs are set to play in a do-or-die match to decide who will be facing Ateneo. NU is the team that eliminated Ateneo in last year’s finals, while UST has Mark Alfafara, a player who recently broke the UAAP record in points, scoring 37 against the defending champions, NU. No matter which team his boys will face, coach stressed that they will prepare properly.
“Both of them, most of them member ng Bagwis, so talagang matitibay yung NU tsaka UST. They are tall, they are talented, both of them have good setters. Kelangan talagang magtrabaho ng husto, we have to prepare physically and mentally.”
“Yung consistency ng first and second set, sana ganoon. Pero kelangan namin ma-maximize yung intensity and yung closing out of sets. Sana maangat pa doon, ma-polish pa. Yun naman hinahanap ng lahat ng coaches eh. Better to be better each game, sana sa next game maging much better kami,” added coach Oliver.
Just like their female counterparts, the Lady Eagles, the men’s team has been struggling with errors throughout this season. Which is why it pleased coach Oliver when the team committed just 9 errors during the first two sets of the game.
“I’m happy, I’m happy, kasi nakita ko kaagad na 4 errors lang per set. I’m really really happy. Yun nga yung sinasabi ko na yung effort and intensity ng first two sets and consistency, nandoon. So sana madala namin sa finals. I really pray na madala namin sa finals and madagdagan pa.”
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