Saturday, March 7, 2015
Ateneo dethrones NU; wins first-ever UAAP Men's Volleyball crown
All hail the kings: Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles crowned themselves as 77th UAAP men's volleyball champion after sweeping the dethroned National University in the best-of-three finals.
Ateneo de Manila University made history by winning its first ever title, dethroning the two-time defending champion National University, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15, Saturday in Game 2 of the best-of-three 77th UAAP men’s volleyball finals series at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Rex Intal delivered the championship blow, pounding a running spike over Fauzi Ismail’s single coverage in the right corner as the Blue Eagles stormed the court to celebrate the feat.
“Honestly this is long overdue as a coach,” Ateneo mentor Oliver Almadro said.
It is the first men’s title of the Blue Eagles since taking two in the NCAA including their last in 1976 under the late coach Pitong Custodio.
Back-to-back Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo duplicated his career-high 33 points with 28 coming off kills including three serive aces for the Blue Eagles. He averaged 32 points in the series.
Ysrael Marasigan had 14 markers while Intal scored nine for the Katipunan-based squad, who escaped with the win even after giving away 38 points from miscues.
Best setter winner Esmilzo Polvorosa added 36 excellent sets for Ateneo. He was named Finals MVP in his instrumental role for the Blue Eagles’ attack as he averaged 46.5 perfect setups in the series.
“Naramdaman naming na sa amin na ito sa fourth set nu’ng pumapasok na yung mga services namin,” Almadro added. “Dun sa fourth sabi ko yung mga services natin lagyan na natin ng karga kasi sa mga unang sets medyo nagpa-safe kami sa service.”
Ateneo broke open their slim hold of the lead, 8-7, in the fourth frame with a 9-2 run for a commanding 17-9 advantage. Peter Torres tried to keep the Bulldogs in the game pushing NU closer, 14-19.
Espejo’s combination kill sparked the finishing 6-1 blast. John Rivera brought Ateneo to match point with a lucky ace that kissed the top of the net before dropping in. Intal did the rest.
The Blue Eagles won the series opener last Wednesday with an impressive 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22, decision over the same team that swept Ateneo in two games in the finale last year.
“Hindi yung revenge e. Ang masarap kasi we worked hard for this,” Almadro said.
Torres was the only NU player in double figures with 12. Edwin Tolentino had eight, Jan Paglinawan scored seven, Ruben Baysac and skipper Reuben Inaudito finished with six each for the Bulldogs, who were outspiked 37-57 and committed 26 errors.
NU overhauled a 16-20 deficit in the second frame for a 21-21 count capped by Mangulabnan’s service ace. Marasigan fired back with a through the block hit but Torres evened the game with a quick hit.
Espejo answered with a smash to the back row before Tolentino’s middle hot for the final tie at 23. Marasigan and Espejo sealed the frame with a combo and an off the block hit, respectively.
The Blue Eagles trailed by five midway to the set but clawed their way back and took the lead 19-18 after Inaudito’s wide attack.
Torres put the Bulldogs back in front with a runner, 23-22, but Espejo answered with a cross court hit followed by a setting error by Mangulabnan.
Espejo closed down the set with a thunderous cross from the left side off a broken play by Rivera and Villanueva that broke NU’s two-man wall for Ateneo’s 2-1 match lead.