The Ateneo Blue Spikers were able to eke out a difficult win over a hungry FEU Tamaraw squad, 19-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-21, 15-11, Saturday, at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
FEU were able to jump to an early lead in the opening set. They were able to take three free points care of an Ish Polvorosa double touch and a Marck Espejo attack error, followed by a Greg Dolor kill off an over-received ball for a 7-2 lead. Ateneo threatened to tie the set after an Ysay Marasigan kill.
Reception became a temporary problem for the Tamaraws, leading to consecutive attack errors by their spikers. Holding a slim 8-7 lead, the Tamaraws were quick to remedy their reception problems, allowing JP Bugaoan and Jeric Gacutan to pull of multiple combination plays, as well as running attacks, and take a comfortable 18-12 lead over the defending champions. Ateneo attempted a comeback, with Espejo scoring on consecutive cross-court attacks followed by an error by the Tamaraws, trimming the lead to 19-22. Ateneo’s fate was sealed as a Lawrence Magadia service error was followed by back-to-back blocks on Espejo.
The Blue Spikers played through most of the second set without their main scoring option, Espejo. With their wing spikers having trouble scoring, Ateneo went to their big men for points. Trailing 8-4 after the first technical timeout of the set, Josh Villanueva scored on two quick attacks to kick-start a 4-0 Ateneo run to tie the set at 8. From there, both teams traded leads before a string of FEU errors saw them staring at a 22-19 Ateneo lead. Ateneo were able to seal the set after reinserting the rejuvenated Espejo.
FEU once again got off to an early lead in the third set. Ateneo, however, were able to go on a 6-1 run, taking the lead entering the first technical timeout of the set, 8-5. FEU battled back, eventually taking a one-point lead thanks to a 3-0 run by Gacutan and Jude Garcia. The back-and-forth between both teams ended up with a tie at 24-all, but an Espejo service error and a Richard Solis block awarded the set to FEU.
Neither team was able to take a significant lead throughout the fourth set. The Blue Spikers were the first to gain an edge after Espejo’s back row attack was followed by consecutive Polvorosa aces for a 16-13 lead. The defending champions never relented, eventually forcing a fifth and final set.
Ateneo began the final set with kills by Espejo and Marasigan for an early 2-0 lead. The big men of the Blue Spikers shone once again, this time with Rex Intal scoring consecutive quick attacks, followed by an Espejo down-the-line kill for a 12-6 lead. Errors once again hounded the Blue Spikers, helping FEU go on a 4-0 run. Thankfully for Ateneo, their lead was big enough to hold off the gritty FEU squad.
Five Ateneo players scored in double digits. Espejo, despite struggling through the first two sets, topscored for the Blue Spikers with 18 points. Villanueva pitched in 16 points, while Marasigan, Baysa, and Intal scored 15, 13, and 11 points respectively.
FEU, on the other hand, were led by middle blocker Greg Dolor. Jude Garcia was next, scoring 15, while Gacutan and Bugaoan pitched in 13 and 11 points.
Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro was happy with the way his team played. Despite committing a whopping 39 errors, he commended the way the Blue Spikers pulled through.
“Sinabi ko sa mga bata ko, ‘mablock man kayo, umoutside yung palo niyo, what’s important is alam niyo yung gagawin niyo.’ So kung nag error sila, no problem, basta alam nila kung paano bumawi, which is nangyari naman. Bumawi sila.”
Ateneo’s next opponent will be the University of the Philippines Maroons on Wednesday, March 9, 10am at the MOA Arena. FEU on the other hand, face the De La Salle University on Saturday, March 12, 8am at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
ADMU (3) – Espejo 18, Villanueva 16, Marasigan 15, Baysa 13, Intal 11, Polvorosa 7, Medalla 2, Sumanguid L.
FEU (2) – Dolor 16, Garcia 15, Gacutan 13, Bugaoan 11, Paler 6, Solis 3, Villegas 2, Quiel 1, Marmeto L, Marmeto L.