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Ismail breaks out, leads Bulldogs past DLSU

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With returning open hitter, Fauzi Ismail delivering a season-high 19 points, the National University (NU) Bulldogs blasted through the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Spikers 27-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18 in the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

NU lorded over their substantial height advantage right from the first point. As described by acting head coach, Jesse Lopez, the Bulldogs had trouble figuring out La Salle’s gameplan in the first set. The Greenies loaded their serves and targeted specific player with them to hamper NU’s offense. Although the boys from Sampaloc wiggled past La Salle in the first set, NU struggled to find form.

“Kasi kanina same plays kami [ng La Salle] – puro labas saka back line. Noong first set, kahit papano, hindi kami makablock sa cross court gawa nung center blocker namin hindi maka-adkust agad. Pagdting ng second set, naka-adjust pero, ang problema naman, na-rattle kami sa [service reception] kasi ang strategy nga ni Coach Ronald Dulay is targetin ‘yung blind side ng setter para mahirapan bumato ‘yung setter namin, tapos nahirapan pa sa receive si Madz [Gampong]. Doon kami nahuli ng La Salle,” explained Lopez.

His Bulldogs, however, recovered and dominated the action in the following sets, never letting La Salle hold the lead. In the fourth frame, NU’s blocking peaked, notching five of their 13 total rejections for the match.

Towering sophomore open hitter, Bryan Bagunas paced the NU offense with 16 markers while opposite hitter, Madzlan Gampong sizzled for 17 points. Sophomore middle blocker, Francis Saura led the NU block party along with Kim Malabunga and Gampong as they each notched three blocks. NU’s attacking outperformed DLSU’s offense to the tune of a 55-43 attacking gap which made up for their 34 errors.

La Salle’s sophomore skipper, Arjay Onia performed valiantly, notching 22 points on 17 for 34 attacking. Team captain, Raymark Woo, however, was stifled the entire match scoring only 12 points on 11 for 35 attacking.

With a 6-0 record, NU barged into the Spikers’ Turf semis along with fellow undefeated team, Ateneo Blue Eagles. La Salle, on the other hand, dropped to 3-3 and now needs to win over the EAC Generals on Wednesday, September 2 to ensure their place on the Top 4.

When asked about NU’s upcoming match against the defending UAAP champs Ateneo, Lopez went back to his college playing days for comparison. “Ang sabi ko nga sa mga bata, anything is possible. Parang ‘nung last playing year ko lang yan sa UAAP with FEU, kumpleto kaming mga beterano pero natalo kami ng mas batang UST,” said Lopez who took over for head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who had to attend to family matters.

Ateneo and NU will collide on Monday, August 31.

The Scores

NU (3) – Ismail 19, Gampong 17, Bagunas 16, Saura 10, Malabunga 6, Natividad 3, Mangulabnan 0, Dayandante 0, Ogoc 0, Baysac 0, Marcos (L)

DLSU (1) – Onia 22, Woo 12, Dumago 9, Calasin 6, Del Pilar 4, Asia G. 2, Frey 1, Bacon 0, Movido (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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