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UAAP Men’s Volleyball Day One: Ateneo, UST looking powerful

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The UAAP Men’s Volleyball tournament has always featured the tightest competition and Season 78 looks to be no different with a slew of games coming down to the wire. Ateneo, UST, and DLSU came out of opening day unscathed, NU looked powerful in their bid for a fourth straight title, while AdU and FEU both went home with heartbreaking losses.

The Falcons’ Michael Sudaria and Rence Melgar had the Bulldogs’ upstart pair of Madzlan Gampong and Bryan Bagunas on the ropes. But NU rallied back and squeezed past AdU 14-21, 21-19, 15-10. Already in their third year playing on the sand courts, Sudaria and Melgar showed poise in the opening set, outsmarting Gampong and Bagunas. They again held a lead in the second set, 16-14, but the forceful pair of Bulldogs got into their groove, climbing back with their serving and blocking. The final set saw Bagunas dominate the action at the net, stopping multiple Adamson attacks and unloading nifty angled hits. Adamson tried to comeback but NU had built too lofty a lead.

Last season’s runner-up, UST’s Kris Guzman and Anthony Arbasto nearly surrendered an upset but pulled through in the end against FEU’s Greg Dolor and Jude Garcia, thwarting their Manila neighbors, 21-19, 13-21, 19-17. Arbasto, replacing the powerful Mark Alfafara in UST’s vaunted sand tandem, showed great promise in the opening set, scoring clutch points to lift his team. Both Guzman and Arbasto, however, struggled mightily in the following frame, giving up multiple free balls which FEU converted easily. UST were on the verge of an early upset, allowing FEU to get ahead in the deciding set, 14-13. But Guzman and Arbasto pulled through, forcing a deuce and maintaining advantage until FEU surrendered an error tp end the match.

Dominating the indoor volleyball scene in his first three years in Loyola, Ateneo’s Marck Espejo made his beach volleyball debut. The phenom paired with veteran Ysay Marasigan to make short work of UP’s Alfred Valbeuna and Evan Raymundo, 21-15, 21-18. Espejo had trouble reining in his thunderous hits early on but he adjusted and made UP pay for targeting him in the first place. Marasigan, who guarded the net for the pair, nabbed multiple rejections and showed his veteran savvy with well-placed hits and timing.

In their only match of the day, La Salle’s Carlo Sendo and Levin Dimayuga escaped UE’s Edward Caposano and Geric Ortega 21-10, 19-21, 15-13. La Salle created multiple great opportunities early in the match with UE’s futile attacking. UE’s serving troubled DLSU in the second and perpetuated early into the deciding third set with the Green Spikers trailing, 13-11. La Salle fought, gaining a bit of a nudge off untimely UE errors, giving them a 1-0 slate.

In both team’s second match of the day, Ateneo’s Espejo-Marasigan tandem outlasted NU’s Bagunas-Gampong pair, 21-16, 21-23, 15-11. Both teams boasted similar strengths with neither lacking skill nor power. Ateneo’s impeccable court sense and attacking allowed them to take the opening set while Bagunas caught fire late in the following frame to carry his team t o a deciding set. NU held on to a one-point advantage throughout the set, but Ateneo finally rallied to the finish line with Espejo burying consecutive aces that sucked the life out of NU’s play.

In the night cap, UST’s Arbasto and Guzman made short work of UE’s Camposano and Ortega 21-10, 21-12. Attacking and serving with lethal intent, UST had no trouble taking care of the visibly worn-out UE side. Had UST not coughed up late errors, the score would have better illustrated UST’s dominance.

Here are the standings after Day One:

Ateneo (Espejo/Marasigan) 2-0
UST (Guzman/Arbasto) 2-0
DLSU (Sendo/Dimayuga) 1-0
NU (Bagunas/Gampong) 1-1
AdU (Sudaria/Melgar) 0-1
FEU (Dolor/Garcia) 0-1
UP (Valbuena/Raymundo) 0-1
UE (Camposano/Ortega) 0-2

For the schedule of remaining games, click here.

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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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