In a duel of last year’s finalists, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Spikers notched an impressive victory in a grueling 20-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-19, 25-10 match against the NU Bulldogs at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mark Espejo led the charge for Ateneo with 26 points including three service aces. Ysrael Marasigan chipped in 15 points for the Blue Spikers. On the other hand, Fauzi Ismail paced the Bulldogs with his 15 markers.
Ateneo led the attacking department by eight spikes, 53-45 and they scored more in terms of service aces, 6-2. Despite the win, Blue Spikers had more errors at 42-33 while both teams had 11 blocks in the entire game.
In the opening set, NU opened up a quick margin to distance themselves against Ateneo. The defending champions rushed to a seven-point lead early and their excellent net defense helped them deny the mini Ateneo rallies late. In the second set however, Ateneo managed to grab the frame due to 11 errors from the Bulldogs.
Ismail and Edwin Tolentino’s duo anchored the offense for NU in the third canto to win the set up by seven. With the help of their defense that led to Ateneo’s errors, NU seemed poised to close out the match.
Ateneo countered with a fourth set victory and managed to extend the match to a deciding fifth set. With Espejo making noise late offensively, the Blue Spikers rallied and gave NU its second five-set match of the season.
At the shortest and last set, Ateneo was able to take advantage of the free balls as Espejo and Marasigan delivered the final blow. Peter Torres had some attacks late to help salvage the Bulldogs’ game but was not enough to complete the comeback.
Ateneo ended their first round stint at 5-2 with a four-game winning streak while NU landed at 6-1. Second round schedule to be announced.
ADMU – Espejo 26. Marasigan 15, Rivera 10, Villanueva 8, Intal 8, Polvorosa 3, Santos 0, Baysa 0, Rivera( L) 0
NU – Ismail 15, Torres 13, Tolentino 13, Inaudito 9, Saura 5, Mangulabnan 3, Tipay( L) 0, Dizon(L ) 0