The Far Eastern University Tamaraws relieved a forgotten rivalry with the University of the Philippines Maroons, taking a tight straight-sets decision 25-23, 26-24, 25-23 in the first match of the UAAP Men’s Volleyball Tournament at the FilOil Flying V Centre earlier today.
Momentum see-sawed in the first set with UP getting the better of an early exchange of errors for a 7-3 lead. FEU stalwart Greg Dolor powered a resounding run midway through the set. Dolor scored most of his eight points in a short spurt, finishing three consecutive quick plays that buoyed FEU ahead 14-11. UP open hitter, Wendel Miguel then caught fire. As FEU’s service reception went array, Miguel finished most of UP’s attacks, eventually bringing the Maroons to a 22-19 lead. FEU rookie Jude Garcia then got momentum to flow to FEU’s favor permanently. Unleashing ruthless jump serves, Garcia scored an ace and coaxed several free balls, sparking a 4-0 run. Ahead 24-23, FEU got the set-winning point off a Kyle San Pascual attack error.
Both squads shook their early-season jitters and figured in a tight second set. Neither team held a lead greater than two but UP seemed poised to take the frame after negotiating a 4-0 run for a 22-20 lead. After a timeout, FEU rallied behind the strong hitting Jeric Gacutan. The opposite hitter capped a 4-1 blitz with a highlight reel-worthy slide kill to give FEU first crack at set point, 24-23. An Alfred Valbuena cross-court jab forced a deuce, 24-all, but FEU ended the frame abruptly as Josh Barrica and JP Bugaoan teamed up for FEU’s last two points.
Deflated by their early setbacks, UP played uninspired for much of the third set. Gacutan pounded two straight running hits that inflated FEU’s lead to 16-10, their highest of the match. The Tamaraws marched all the way to set point, 24-20, before facing any resistance. Snuffing three plays, the Tamaraws opened the door for UP to score three straight points late and threaten to extend the match. Barrica, however, made the best of a bad set, scoring the match-clinching point off a soft hit.
Gacutan led the Tamaraws with 13 points, Dolor finished with eight while Garcia and Bugaoan each managed seven markers.
First-year FEU head coach Rey Diaz expected the tight match as leaned on several rookies like Garcia and Bugaoan.
“Bata pa talaga ‘yung mga player ko kaya may kaba talaga kasi unang laban nila. Maganda rin ‘yung nilaro ng UP kaya first match pa lang, nasubukan agad kami,” Diaz said.
Miguel towed the Maroons with 13 markers, all off attacks. Team captain Alfred Valbuena pitched in eight points while Evan Raymundo and Nic Consuela each had six.
The Tamaraws will take on the Ateneo Blue Eagles next on February 6, 10 a.m. at the PhilSports Arena. UP has the UST Tigers on February 7, 8 a.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
FEU (3) – Gacutan 12, Dolor 8, Garcia 7, Bugaoan 7, Paler 5, Solis 3, Barrica 2, Villegas 1, Silan 0, Suarez 0, Marmeto R. (L), Marmeto L. (L).
UP (0) – Miguel 13, Valbuena 8, Consuelo 6, Raymundo 6, Millete 4, San Pascual 4, San Pedro 3, Acuna 1, Baldelovar 0, Luna 0, Nasol (L), Madrigalejos (L).