Ateneo rallied late in the fourth then pounced on National U’s defensive lapses to score a 25-14, 18-25, 25-20, 25-20 victory and capture the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference crown for the second straight year at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Monday.
The Eagles took five of the next six points coming off a 16-18 deficit in the fourth to wrest control then scored four of the next five, including two off the Bulldogs’ miscues to clinch the victory in 1:33, the series at 2-0, and the championship – for the second straight time.
“We’re happy to win again and we hope to sustain our form in the UAAP,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, seeking to steer the Eagles to a three-peat in the coming 79th UAAP.
Marck Espejo and Russian-American Paul Koyfman fired 15 hits apiece, including a combined 28-kill effort to power the Eagles to the victory and another title sweep, also against the Bulldogs. The crisp-hitting Espejo and the 6-8 Koyfman later bagged the Conference and Finals MVP, respectively.
Joshua Villanueva backed them up with seven points while Rex Intal and skipper Karl Baysa each had six hits and setter Joner Polvorosa added four markers on top of producing 36 excellent sets.
The Eagles, who needed five sets to thwart the Bulldogs in the opener of their best-of-three series, 16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11, last week, braced themselves for another five-setter as the Bulldogs took control late in the fourth. But the Loyola-based squad came out of a huddle in fierce form, winning the next two points on combination plays to force an 18-all count then after NU took the lead again with a hit, Ateneo swept the next five points as the Bulldogs failed to recover and succumbed to pressure.
Bryan Bagunas unleashed a 15-hit game for NU, which also drew eight points from Madzlan Gampong, five from Francis Saura and four apiece from Kim Dayandante, James Natividad, Kim Malabunga and Fauzi Ismail. But the Bulldogs failed to deliver when it mattered most, blowing their edge in blocking, 7-2, with faulty court coverage and service reception, which netted Ateneo seven aces.
Down 19-22, the Bulldogs fell farther behind on a spike that went long then after they notched a point off the Eagles’ service fault, then yielded the last two points on an Ateneo quick hit and an ace from Intal that they thought would sail long.
The title romp also capped Ateneo’s dominating campaign in the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Mikasa as official ball and Accel as official outfitter as they went unbeaten the group stages in five before sweeping La Salle in the semis.
Earlier, University of Santo Tomas bowed to La Salle, 16-25, 22-25, 25-19, 21-25, in Game Two but the Tigers, who took Game One, 25-15, 25-18, 25-23, clinched third place honors on a better quotient.
Other individual awardees were Espejo (First Best Outside Spiker), La Salle’s Raymark Woo (Second Best Outside Spiker) and Rafael Del Pilar (First Best Middle Blocker), UST’s Lester Sawal (Best Libero), Ateneo’s Ish Polvorosa (Best Setter), NU’s Kim Malabunga (Second Best Middle Blocker) and Madz Gampong (Best Opposite Spiker).