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Young Bulldogs tower over Generals for fifth Spikers’ Turf win

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Touting their height advantage at almost every position on the court, the National University (NU) Bulldogs demolished the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Generals 25-20, 25-21, 27-25 for their fifth win in as many games in the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference presented by PLDT Home Ultera at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

NU’s blocking spelled the difference in the match. The boys from Sampaloc notched 12 total block kills wherein Madzlan Gampong, Francis Saura, and Kim Malabunga each pitched three block kills apiece. NU’s superior length was also evident in the amount of total block attempts they had compared to EAC (52-22) which severely affected EAC’s attack efficiency (EAC went 31 for 91 in spiking with 19 attack errors for a true attacking efficiency of 13.2%).

NU’s sophomore middle blocker, Kim Malabunga dominated the first set with his superb control of the net. With him at the service line, NU erected a five-point lead, 11-6 which eventually inflated to seven, 17-10, after a 4-0 run capped by a Vince Mangulabnan ace. With his team reeling behind a 12-19 deficit, Howard Mojica sparked a revitalizing 4-0, run, 16-19, highlighted by three consecutive back row kills from the reigning NCAA MVP. Mojica continued to trade blows with NU’s lanky frontline, but NU successfully protected their lead and ended the set with Francis Saura copping a resounding block on Howard Mojica.

NU had a much harder time pulling away from the Generals in the second set as it seemed like every time NU pulled ahead by two or three points, EAC came back and answered with a run of their own. NU seemed to have pulled away after consecutive EAC errors brought them to a three-point lead, 20-17, prompting an EAC timeout. Then, it was NU’s turn to surrender consecutive errors that was followed by an Israel Encina block on Bryan Bagunas that tied the set again, 20-20. EAC finally then dug their own grave, as they gave up three consecutive attack errors and a 23-20 NU lead. NU backup setter Kim Dayandante surrendered a service error but Bryan Bagunas made up for it with a back row kill, which was followed by a Howard Mojica attack that went wide and sealed a 2-0 sets lead for NU.

Behind a ruckus gallery of supporters, EAC ran off a 4-0 run to begin the third set. However, NU quickly recovered, knotting the set at five, then taking a hefty 15-12 lead after two more EAC errors. Fauzi Ismail soared for a cross-court kill that put his team at a comfortable 22-18 lead. Mojica, however, had one more heroic run in him, scoring four consecutive points from a myriad of attacks and blocks to tie the set at 22. Saura and Bagunas conspired for back-to-back points for NU, placing them at set point, 24-22 but errors from Ismail and Bagunas brought the match to a deuce. The sophomore, Bagunas quickly took back his error and nabbed a down-the-line kill but Mojica retaliated with an open hit. Following a timeout, Mark Arias blew a service attempt which guest player, Mark Pagtalunan followed with a net touch that gave NU the match, 27-25.

Bagunas led NU’s balanced offense with 11 points followed by Bagunas and Malabunga who tallied nine points each. EAC’s Mojica topped all scorers with 22 huge points but had 10 attack errors.

NU head coach, Dante Alinsunurin, praised his team’s composure in the match’s close situations given his team’s youth. “Maganda ‘yung nilaro ng mga bata kahit noong huling dalawang set nahabol kami, nagamit pa rin ng mga bata ‘yung advantage nila tapos naka-execute pa rin sila ng gameplan namin.”

NU now joins Ateneo at the top of the heap in the next stage of elimination with identical 5-0 records. EAC drops to 4-1 with the schedule for their next batch of games yet to be announced as of press time.

The Scores:

NU (3) – Bagunas 11, Malabunga 9, Saura 9, Capal 7, Gampong 5, Ismail 5, Mangulabnan 2, Dayandante 0, Marcos (L)

EAC (0) – Mojica 22, Encina 9, Doguna 5, Melliza 4, Arias 1, Barbuco 0, Cilocilo 0, Mangaring (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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