National University (NU) twice went through some anxious moment but survived the scare each time, hacking out a 26-24, 25-19, 26-24 decision over a stubborn University of the Philippines (UP) side to wrest the solo lead in the Spikers’ Turf Season 1-Collegiate Conference at The Arena in San Juan City.
Nipped by the fierce-fighting Maroons in attacks, 37-38, the Bulldogs relied on their defense and reception to turn back their rivals in the first and third sets while cruising to a second set romp to complete the straight-set victory in 75 minutes at the start of the quarterfinal round.
It was NU’s fourth straight victory, counting the 3-0 mark after a sweep of group play, with the Bulldogs seeking to stretch their win run against a winless St. Benilde squad tomorrow.
“Our defense helped us a lot in this game,” said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin, whose wards came through with six blocks against their rivals’ three.
UP slid to 1-3 and will have a lot of catching up to do to wheel back into semifinal contention.
Bryan Bagunas and Madzlan Gampong fired 12 points apiece, including key hits in the third frame that help thwart the Maroons’ rally. Francis Saura, James Natividad, Kim Malabunga, Vincent Mangulabnan and Faizi Ismail combined for 21 hits for NU.
Wendel Miguel and skipper Alfred Gerard Valbuena kept UP in the thick of things with their crisp attacks and power tips but the Maroons just couldn’t pull it off at endgame.
Miguel wound up with 16 hits while Valbuena added 14 makers for the Maroons, who also came through with three aces, one more than NU, while UP’s setter Charles Acuna accounted for all but one of the team’s 31 excellent sets against the 24 of NU’s playmaker Mangulabnan.