The Ateneo Men’s Volleyball program has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the past few years. From a program that sparingly performed well in the UAAP, to making the Finals the past two years and winning the school’s first UAAP championship in Season 77.
This season, the Ateneans are on track to go down from a sandy hill after completely dominating their competition in the UAAP Beach Volleyball Tournament. Taking down perennial favorites NU, UST, AdU, and FEU, the Eagles’ Ysay Marasigan and Marck Espejo soared to a 6-0 record and the programs first Final Four berth since the inception of the tournament. With a win against the UE Warriors later, Ateneo would complete a sweep of the eliminations and barge intl the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage.
It would be convenient to credit their success to the inclusion of Marck Espejo in the beach-side volley wars. After all, the third-year wunderkind has won more trophies from his exploits on the indoor courts than most players win in their careers. But Espejo and their coach, Oliver Almadro would be the first to hand the credit to their beach volleyball veteran, Ysay Marasigan.
Marasigan barely sniffed the Final Four in past years. Now in his final year of eligibility, the powerful hitter wants nothing more to bring a title to Loyola. “Sobrang nangangarap na bago ako umalis ng Ateneo na makapagdala ako ng championship. Kahit sandali lang ‘yung paghahanda namin para dito, pinagpupursigihan ko na din,” Marasigan said.
“Ang sabi lang sa akin ni coach, gawin ko ‘yung best ko para matulungan ko si Ysay since siya po matagal na nagbi-beach volley tapos ako nag-aadjust pa… this is Ysay’s last year na rin so sobrang motivated ako manalo para sa kanya, ‘yung games talaga ngayon dedicated ko para sa kanya,” Espejo remarked, mentioning that he had never played beach volleyball before he started training a week and a half before the tournament.
“Ang game plan lang talaga namin is to play well kaya sobrang happy and blessed kami na naging ganito ‘yung resulta ng matches namin,” Marasigan continued.
With Marasigan and Espejo pairing up, opponents are forced to pick their poison as each boasts considerable power and finishing capabilities. The tandem also defend well with Marasigan manning the net and Espejo testing his usually exemplary floor defense on the slippery sand.
“I’m very proud sa kanila, kasi ang bilis nila nakapag-adjust. Ang sabi ko sa kanila theses games won’t boil down to skills, it’s all about mindset and desire to win and I’m very happy na naipakita nila ‘yun,” said coach Oliver Almadro.
The winless UE Warriors stand in the way of Ateneo’s berth to the Finals. The Ateneans are, however, already incredibly thankful for what they’ve accomplished.
“Ateneo has never been in the Final Four so we’ll see, hindi naman natin masasabi ang lahat ng mangyayari from now. Whatever happens, we’re already incredibly thankful and blessed for what the team has accomplished,” closed Coach Almadro.
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