The Ateneo Blue Eagles have faced barely any resistance in their march for the inaugural Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference Title.
There were murmurs that the retooled NU Bulldogs stood a chance against the Loyola Spikers. But the Bulldogs have yet to even claim a set against the Eagles, surrendering a unconvincing straight set loss to their UAAP tormentors last Sunday in Game One of their Finals series.
Ateneo has been dominant but it doesn’t take much to derail a seemingly perfect season.
After their convincing Game One win, Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro revealed that third year skipper Ish Polvorosa, his starting setter and an irreplaceable piece in his rotation, had nearly been hospitalized in the days leading to the match due to dengue-like symptoms.
“‘Nung Monday, na-confine siya. Nakapag-practice lang siya nung Thursday na. We thought dengue talaga ‘yung dahilan kung bakit na-confine si Ish. Prepared na ako na iba talaga ‘yung gagamitin ko. Pero fighter is Ish – he told me ‘coach kaya ko’. Although may plano na akong iba ang gagamitin, nagdedeliver naman siya so I went with him. Thankfully it worked out,” Almadro explained in the post-game presser.
Tiebreaker Times caught up with the Season 77 Finals MVP and he recalled his hectic week. “‘Nung Monday, I was in the hospital and they had me take a dengue test. Muntik na [bumaba ‘yung platelets ko sa dengue level] pero hindi naman umabot. After that I rested for two days and nagtraining na ako. Hindi pa ‘rin ok ‘yung pakiramdam ko, pero it’s better than before,” the Caviteño said.
Polvorosa also expressed that his desire to play in a big game with his teammates, more than anything, allowed him to power through his illness, “Inisip ko ‘yung buong team – I really didn’t want to let anyone down. Saka Finals game din so I really wanted to play. Gusto ko talaga makalaro ‘yung teammates ko in a Finals setting. And NU pa ‘yung kalaban. For sure, pinaghandaan nila kami.”
Ish barely needed to be subbed out throughout the match and doled out 24 excellent sets. He, however, insists that he still isn’t playing to his full capabilities. “I don’t was to say that I felt na 100% na ako because I know I can do better,” he remarked. Coach Almadro also said that Polvorosa needed special attention from their team physician during the match.
The Blue Eagles have yet to drop more than two sets in a match this season, plowing through their competition like a hot knife through butter. The defending UAAP champs have also developed into a more balanced team with a different Eagle garnering Man of the Match honors every game. The European Studies major, Polvorosa has been key to this development, spreading the wealth through his impeccable setting.
“Coming into the UAAP, importante talaga para sa team na makuha ‘yung championship. Malaking tulong siya for our confidence specially ngayon na nakalaban namin ‘yung karamihan ng kasali sa UAAP dito,” expressed the UAAP Season 77 Best Setter.
In years past, Polvorosa’s batchmate, Marck Espejo dominated the headlines for the Blue Eagles with his frequent scoring explosions with senior Ysay Marasigan sprinkling in a few great performances here and there. The Blue Eagles had done marvelously in shedding their two-man identity and have formed a more holistic attack this season.
More valuable, perhaps, has been the maturation of this still very young team. Polvorosa’s injury could have knocked Ateneo out of their rhythm, but the setter had his team’s best interest in mind. Had they been in the same situation, his teammates surely would have played as well.
Polvorosa and the Blue Eagles can clinch the tiltle should they win Game Two on Sunday, September 27, 3 p.m. at the the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
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