Despite losing to a battle-tested Cignal HD Spikers in the semifinals, Nico Almendras and the rest of Sta. Elena-NU has won something that nobody can ever take away from them.
The Ball Hammers barged into the semifinals in which they took the league-leading HD Spikers’ championship hopes to the edge. Even with the disparity in age, the young Sta. Elena made a gallant stand and extended the series to a deciding Game Three, where they only lost by two points in a five-set nail-biter.
Figuring in a tight tussle in the final set which saw him go toe-to-toe with Almendras, four-time Spikers’ Turf MVP Marck Espejo gave high praises to the reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year and the rest of the Ball Hammers.
“‘Di basta basta yung nakalaban namin, mabigat talaga, championship team ‘yan sa collegiate so hindi talaga basta basta yan,” said Espejo, who delivered the lethal blows against Sta. Elena last Tuesday.
As one of the only two collegiate squads in the tournament, the Ball Hammers only wanted to gather experience in their upcoming UAAP Season 82 title defense.
Sta. Elena may have lost the match, but they have surely won something much more valuable than winning – respect.
“Parang mga low-key players sila na ‘di mo napapansin pero mataas pala umi-score. As in fundamentally magaling talaga sila,” added Espejo.
“Ibang klase talaga yung team nila.”
Edward Camposano and Almendras, finished the elimination round as the sixth and seventh best scorers, with the former tallying 15.27 hits while the latter finishing with 15 per game.
As for Almendras, the match-up with Espejo taught him a lot of things. But one that stands out is to become resilient – especially in the crucial moments of the game. With this experience at hand, expect Almendras to never shy away from the limelight.
“Napakalaking bagay na nakalaban ko si Espejo. Experience talaga kasi beterano na siya, ‘yun nga tapos bata pa yung team namin. Malaking bagay yun na nakalaban namin sila na mga beterano,” said Almendras, who dropped a whopping 29 points in Game Three.
“Natutunan ko na mas maging matibay lalong lalo na ‘pag dating sa labanan, yung mga crucial games, kailangan hindi basta basta bumigay.”