Ateneo and NU are at it once again in the UAAP Men’s Volleyball Tournament finals. The Blue Spikers drew first blood with a 4-set victory over NU, 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22. Ateneo’s Season 76 Rookie of the Year and MVP, Marck Espejo dazzled spectators with 31 points, while NU’s Peter Torres ran rampant with running attacks en route to 14 points. After the exciting game, we caught up to both athletes, who gave insights on the game and what they hope to accomplish in Game 2 of the finals.
“Para sa akin no regrets, ibigay ko na lahat.” – Peter Torres
Torres couldn’t hide his disappointment after the game. His team had been playing so well during their past few games prior to the loss, dismantling a Mark Alfafara led UST in two games for a chance to defend their crown. With the loss, NU is 0-3 against Ateneo this season.
“Sobrang disappointing lang yung game kasi di lumabas yung ine-ensayo namin. Yung galawan namin sa ensayo na gusto namin manalo, na pinag-aralan namin yung plays nila, kung paano sila maglaro. Nandun yun sa training eh. Sobrang nakakadisappoint lang na hindi namin nailabas yung dapat ginalaw namin,” shared Torres.
Torres kept his team afloat with repeated running attacks. He feasted on the Ateneo defense during the 3rd set, which was the only set that NU won during the game, as the Blue Spikers had difficulty covering the high-leaping Bulldog.
“First set medyo wala kaming magawa. Sabi ko hindi na ako sinusundan ng mga blockers. Andun nalang sila nakablock sa wings namin. Sabi ko pag kaya naman, ibigay. At least alam ng kalaban na papalo ako,” added Torres.
With away from Game 2 fast approaching, Torres hopes to find the means to stop Espejo’s powerful spikes, citing extra effort is needed to overcome the Blue Spikers.
“Magdoble lang yung effort. Nabigay naman namin yung lahat. Although yung open ni Espejo, medyo mabigat. Yung block namin andiyan naman, hindi lang makuha. Siguro maga-adjust nalang kami sa depensa. O sige di namin ma block, kunin nalang namin sa depensa at iconvert sa attack.”
While NU was unable to show what they had prepared, Espejo shared that he was happy that Ateneo brought out the best in themselves. Espejo said his team was not willing to lose game one of the finals because they prepared specifically for this moment. A chance to make up for last season’s loss.
“Di kami papayag na magpapatalo kami kasi matagal namin sila pinaghandaan. Siguro kaya lumabas yung laro dahil sa teammates ko rin, dahil nagtulong-tulong kami, and may compliment after every point,” said Espejo.
Espejo proved too much for the NU defenders, scoring as much as 31 points to lead his team to victory. The points came from blistering spikes and his powerful serve which kept NU on their toes. Despite the season-high in points, Espejo claimed he was not thinking of his individual accolade during the game.
“Hindi ko iniisip yung score, basta manalo ng set, isa-isa, tapos manalo yung game,” shared Espejo.
Already looking forward to Game 2, Espejo shares that he hopes Ateneo’s Game 1 performance carries over to their next game. From start to finish, he plans to give it his all.
“Same sana yung malaro namin kanina. All out na. Kailangan start pa lang gumawa ng tama,” added Espejo.
Game 2 of the finals will be on March 7, at the Mall of Asia Arena. Will Ateneo make history and finally earn a Men’s Volleyball Championship? Or will NU live to fight another day and extend the tournament?