Sporting a lineup of mostly rookies and sophomores, the NU Bulldogs successfully sparked their next era of volleyball dominance and handled the Mapua Cardinals in straight sets 25-22, 25-20, 25-22 in their opening match of the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate tournament presented by PLDT Home Ultera in the FilOil Flying-V Arena.
The core that brought the Bulldogs to back-to-back UAAP titles – Peter Torres, Edwin Tolentino, Ben Inaudito, Joseph Henry Tipay, Berlin Paglinawan – all graduated last season. However, the three veterans left in their lineup – Vince Mangulabnan, Ruben Baysac, and Fauzi Ismail – showed promise early into their campaign, carrying the Sampaloc-based squad against the Cardinals. Ismail dropped a game-high 14 points while Vince Mangulabnan was his usual brilliant self, putting up dazzling sets and also pitched in two markers.
Though NU might have lost tremendous firepower, their new lineup still boasted their signature athleticism that has ritually blown back opponents over the past four years. The Bulldogs notched 17 more attack points while also out-blocking the Cardinals, 7-3. Rookie Bryan Bagunas impressed in his debut, notching 14 points. Making his debut in the starting lineup, Francis Saura dished out nine markers while Madzlan Gampong made the most of his time off the bench, and also handed out nine markers.
The Bulldogs jumped on their foes early in the first two sets. Building five point gaps in the early moments, NU utilized their superior blocking and floor defense to stave any Mapuan attempt at hijacking the lead. It was only in the third set that Mapua threatened to extend the match, as they went on 5-0 scoring rampage and took a 17-14 lead late. However, NU veterans Fauzi Ismail and Ruben Baysac shut down the Mapua frontline, swatting back attack attempts and forcing the Cardinals to overcompensate and cough up errors. NU retook the lead at 20-19 and never looked back.
When asked about his chances for the rest of the season, NU Head Coach, Dante Alinsunurin said that he is relying on his veteran setter, Vince Mangulabnan, to carry on his team’s winning tradition. “Noong una kasing nag-rebuild ‘yung NU, lahat ng players bago talaga. Pero ngayon may iba kaming veteran tapos nandiyan pa si Vince na dati ng magaling na setter.”
The Bulldogs will face-off with their UAAP rivals UE on July 20 while MAPUA has NCBA on the same day.
NU (3) – Bagunas 14, Ismail 14, Saura 9, Gampong 9, Capal 4, Mangulabnan 2, Baysac 2, Natividad 1, Dayandante 0, Malabunga 0, Marcos (L)
MIT (0) – Bagalay 14, Flores 8, Ocampo 3, Damian 3, Evangelista 3, Pertierra 2, Bermejo 1, Navera 1, Diaz 0, Andaya 0, Canlas (L), Cuzon (L)