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History is made: Ateneo clinches their first Men’s Volleyball crown

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The Ateneo Blue Spikers notched their first ever UAAP Men’s Volleyball title as they dethroned the two-time champions NU Bulldogs, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15 held at the Mall of Asia Arena on a historical Saturday afternoon.

Armed with momentum from the first game, Ateneo built a 5-1 lead in the opening set despite the Bulldogs settling for multiple blockers in the net. The ensuing plays showed NU going through their combination plays to score. With Rueben Baysac scoring on an ace and Rex Intal’s spike going wide, the Bulldogs chipped closer and made it a one point game at 8-7.

As the opening game jitters come into play, both teams made multiple service errors. Ateneo gave NU seven on the opening frame while the Bulldogs failed on five. Ateneo settled for double blocking against Peter Torres. However, as the newly-minted best blocker’s quick middle attacks dealt damage, the combination plays for NU proved to be deadly in the late run. Down by one at 21-20, NU rallied to a 5-3 finish including a timely contribution from Fauzi Ismail to cap the opening set up by one.

The Bulldogs entered the first technical timeout with a one point lead as Ateneo committed two service errors in the start of the second canto. Season MVP and Best attacker Marck Espejo gathered momentum in his stint in the back row during the second set as his reinsertion in the frontline triggered a 9-3 run for Ateneo.

Espejo scored five points on that stretch capped by an Ysay Marasigan score on a combination play. The Blue Spikers built a five point lead but the Bulldogs caught up, with Torres and Mangulabnan scoring for NU. Both teams tied for the 21st to the 23rd point but Ateneo took the set as Espejo finished it off with a check ball hit.

Best server Vince Mangulabnan opened up the third set with two quick service aces while Torres added a spike for a 3-0 run. However, poor first ball issues for the Bulldogs haunted them in the third frame as they lost a five point lead they built. Espejo scored on against three NU players to cap the wild third set that displayed a lot of exchanges both in spikes and blocks.

The two teams continued to the neck-to-neck battle in the fourth set with an exchange in attacks that made it 7-all. Rex Intal started to chip in points in the frame to help Ateneo sustain the lead in the set. Intal’s hit capped a 4-0 run to force NU coach Dante Alinsunurin to call a quick ceasefire.

The timeout was not effective for last year’s champions, as Ateneo mounted a rampage in the set to distance themselves against NU for good. With multiple spikes hitting the floor of NU, the Bulldogs were stunned as Ateneo sucked the life out of the past champions.

As the struggling and rattled Bulldogs squad continued their problems on reception, Espejo pounded and kept piling up the points to finish off the match. The reinsertion of Torres in the front row salvaged some points for NU but Espejo and the rest of his squad proved to be too much. Ateneo sealed their mastery over the Bulldogs with Rex Intal providing the championship-winning point.

The win gives the Katipunan-based spikers the victory against the Bulldogs in their best-of-three finals series as their quest for redemption for their Season 76 heartbreak has been accomplished. In addition, Ateneo has won all its four matches against the Bulldogs this season.

Setter Esmilzo “Ish” Polvorosa was named the finals Most Valuable Player with 36 excellent sets and scored two markers during the match. Mark Espejo played another tremendous outing finishing off the season with a big 33-point outing including three service aces.

The scores:

ADMU (3): Espejo 33, Marasigan 14, Intal 9, Villanueva 8, Rivera 6, Polvorosa 2, Santos 0, Baysa 0, Señoren 0, Rivera (L) 0

NU (1): Torres 12, Tolentino 8, Baysac 6, Inaudito 6, Ismail 5, Mangulabnan 4, Tipay (L) 0, Dizon (L) 0

Set scores: 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15

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