Ateneo Blue Eagles retain UAAP Men’s Volleyball Crown
Faith, trust and courage. This is the mantra of the Ateneo Men’s Volleyball Team, and this was what they demonstrated all throughout the UAAP season. Today the Blue Eagles survived a sea of errors and showed relentless aggression in their offense to fly high and keep the crown in Katipunan in straight sets, 25-16, 25-20, 25-19.
The Eagles showed dominance and limited the Bulldogs to scoring only 5 points by their own hands in the 1st set. Early in the match, the Eagles really showed their desire for the crown, scoring the first 5 points of the match with Marasigan, Intal and Villanueva collaborating. Immediately after, NU scored two straight points from the errors of Ateneo, but with Espejo and Marasigan attacking, the Eagles carried over the 5-point lead to the 1st technical timeout, 8-3. The Bulldogs continued to struggle with errors and committed 6 more and relied on the Eagles’ mistakes to score, while the Eagles used NU’s errors and added points effectively from their offense and defense, 16-8. The Eagles played consistently well with Polvorosa spreading out the offense to his spikers, until a well-placed ace by Villanueva and a mighty back row hit by Baysa fittingly ended the 1st set.
Strong attacking and heavy serving led to a 2nd set victory for the Eagles. Ateneo started disorganized and untidy with miscues in their plays and unforced errors, which enabled the Bulldogs to stay close, 8-7. Both teams still committed some errors, but this time there were also a lot of intense exchanges and forceful spikes that kept the margin small, 16-16. Gradually, the Eagles pulled away with the effective serving and intelligent attacking of Villanueva, Polvorosa and Marasigan, 22-18. Once again, the teams traded points, until a shattering back row attack closed the set in the same fashion as the first set.
A late meltdown was endured by the Eagles in this final set. In the beginning of this set, Ateneo showcased astounding net defense and punishing spikes which immediately doubled NU’s output, 8-4. With Baysa and Espejo joining the picture, the Bulldogs’ lives became more complicated with the deceiving variety of plays that the Eagles displayed, 16-8. As the Eagles got closer to the trophy, they felt more pressure and started to commit unexpected errors that brought the game closer, 18-15. As a result, Coach Oliver Almadro called a timeout to calm down his players. Soon after this, the Eagles scored 9 straight points via errors from the Bulldogs and points by Baysa and Marasigan. Once again, the Eagles once again experienced nerves and let NU score 4 straight points, until the ball was unmistakably sent to Espejo to seal the deal and make their mark in UAAP history.
Overall, the Eagles masterfully trounced and outplayed the Bulldogs. The Eagles weathered 28 errors with their consistent spiking and serving. They overwhelmed the Bulldogs with 36 spikes compared to NU’s 20 and 7 service aces to NU’s only 2. They also had the advantage in blocking despite the league-leading numbers of NU, 6-5. Besides that, even in the non-scoring stats they still has the upper hand, 33-29 in digging and 36-28 in setting.
Newly crowned Finals MVP and graduating team captain Ysay Marasigan finished with a bang by scoring 12 points, while this season’s MVP Marck Espejo and middle blocker Josh Villanueva scored 11 points apiece. UAAP Best Setter Ish Polvorosa did not disappoint and finished with 35 sets, while Libero Manuel Sumanguid tallied 11 receives.
With this remarkable victory, this team made history by becoming the first Ateneo Men’s Volleyball team to win back-to-back championships in the UAAP.