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Tigers halt Ateneo’s 10-game winning streak

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With a chance at a twice to-beat advantage on the line, the UST Tigers pulled through with a five-set win over the streaking Ateneo Blue Eagles, 25-15, 22-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-13, at the San Juan Arena.

UST’s graduating veterans, Mark Alfafara and Romnick Rico led their team in their biggest game of the elimination round. Alfafara led all Thomasians with 22 markers off 17 attacks, three aces, and two blocks while Rico pitched in 17 points off 16 spikes and a block.

The game was close throughout with both teams trading sloppy sets. Ateneo began the first set laden with all errors a team could possibly make. The Tigers jumped out to an early 15-5 and never looked back.

The Tigers looked to be in the driver’s seat again after taking a 21-19 lead late in the second set off powerful attacks from Alfafara. The Eagles stole the set with tremendous blocking from Rex Intal and attacks from team captain Ysrael Marasigan. The Tigers scored only one more point from there, allowing Ateneo to take the set.

The Tigers regained momentum in the third set with Alfafara and Arnold Bautista blasting Ateneo for a 23-20 lead. Ateneo’s scoring run came too late as the Tigers wound up sealing the set.

A furious Ateneo side ramped up their blocking efforts, demolishing all UST advances and setting up a classic fifth set. The final set came down to Ateneo surrendering more errors than they could handle. The Eagles led 11-8 late in the set right before another Alfafara scoring run. With the score tied at 13 all, two consecutive errors from Ateneo clinched the match for the Tigers.

Ateneo’s Marck Espejo led all scorers with 23 points but greatly struggled from the service area with his running serve doing more harm than good for the Eagles. Team captain Marasigan trailed Espejo with 17 points while Intal contributed 12 markers.

The win pushes the Tigers in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage depending on the results of the NU-AdU match. Ateneo’s five-set loss wasn’t as devastating for the team, as they still are the no. 1 seed for the tournament.

The scores:

UST – Alfafara 22, Rico 17, Bautista 12, Balse 11, Sarabia 5, Guzman 2, Tajanlangit 0, Castillo 0, Pangan (L), Francisco (L)

Ateneo – Espejo 23, Marasigan 17, Intal 12, Villanueva 9, Rivera 4, Polvorosa 2, Señoren 1, Baysa 0, Santos 0, Rivera B. (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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