University of the Philippines had an electric start to its UAAP Season 82 men’s volleyball campaign, scoring a massive upset of Ateneo de Manila University, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22, Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Facing last season’s third-placers, the Fighting Maroons drew strength and confidence from Louis Gamban. The rookie out of Perpetual rained down 10 points, with most coming at the critical juncture of the match.
Trailing by a slim 20-21 margin in the decisive third frame, Gamban showed up with a lot of flare. He pummeled four consecutive hits, lifting UP to match point, 24-21.
Nicolo Consuelo momentarily halted the surge with a mishit, before Ruskin Ijiran iced the game for good.
“Ang goal namin talaga is simulan ng maayos ‘yun season. Nahirapan lang talaga kasi Ateneo ‘yung simula agad so ‘yung anticipation, ‘yung pressure andoon agad sa amin,” UP head coach Rald Ricafort said. “Sabi ko naman sa kanila lahat ng adjustments sa offense, defense, execute lang.”
John Lomibao led UP with 11 points, anchoring the Fighting Maroons in the early stretches of the match. Joshua Castillo and captain Mac Millete provided ample support with nine and eight markers, respectively.
The last time UP won a match against Ateneo was back in Season 76 in a first round encounter that ended in four sets.
Having ended a long drought against a team that paraded the likes of Marck Espejo and Tony Koyfman in previous iterations, Ricafort feels relieved. But he also said that their dreadful past should not weigh down the Fighting Maroons.
“Hindi ko na iniisip ‘yun na may history na matagal walang panalo. Basta lahat ng kalaban namin, kailangan ready kami mentally atsaka physically,” Ricafort said
On the other hand, Chumason Njigha had his game-high output of 12 points go for naught. Carlo Glorioso and Kurt Aguilar managed 11 and nine markers, respectively, in a losing cause.
UP looks to build from this win when it faces University of the East. Meanwhile, Ateneo eyes a breakthrough at the expense of De La Salle University. Both matches will be held on Saturday, March 7 at the same venue.