After racking up four straight victories in emphatic fashions, reigning back-to-back UAAP champion Ateneo braces for a tougher stretch of three matches in its drive for a sweep of the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference elims at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
But the way they trampled their first four rivals, the Eagles look headed to accomplishing the mission for a crack at the inaugural men’s crown of the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa and Asics.
They trounced the FEU Tams in four last Sept. 3 to open their campaign then strung up shut out victories over San Beda, UST and St. Benilde to zero in on the first semifinal berth in the single round elims among eight of the country’s top collegiate teams.
Top hitter Marck Espejo has been lording it over the field with 76 hits, including 68 attack points, after four games with Gian Glorioso, Chumason Njigha, Karl Baysa, Ron Medalla, libero Manuel Sumanguid III and playmakers Joner Polvorosa and Ishmael Rivera providing the solid backup.
Midway though the elims, the dominant Eagles are soaring in the stats sheet.
With Espejo emerging as the leading scorer, the four-time UAAP MVP and Rivera also pace the spiking department with 60.71 and 48.61 success, respectively. Polvorosa is also the league’s top setter with a 10.62 norm per set while Sumanguid leads the receivers with 58.44 percent efficiency.
As a team, Ateneo is also tops in spikes with 45.36 percent success, in serves with 1.46 average, and in setting and receives with 10.85 norm and 52.75 percent efficiency, respectively.
They, however, lag in blocking, falling in seventh in the eight-team field with 2.08 average although they compensate for the slack by dominating the other areas, particularly in spiking.
They gun for No. 5 tomorrow against Katipunan neighbor UP, which totes a 1-2 card before facing archrival La Salle, with a 2-2 card, next Saturday. Ateneo closes out its elims campaign against National U, also struggling with a 1-2 slate, on Sept. 30.
The top four teams after the elims will advance to the crossover semis with the winners of the best-of-three series disputing the crown in another best-of-three affair.