Ateneo overcame National U’s solid blocking and rallied from a fourth set defeat to pull off a 16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11 thriller and move within a win from retaining the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference crown at the Philsports Arena on Wednesday.
The fancied Eagles unleashed a 66-spike game, 18 more than the Bulldogs, but still needed to go to a wringer before subduing a tough-defending NU side in one-hour, 53-minute of power hitting and superb blocking.
Marck Espejo sustained his fiery form and hammered in 18 kills for a 20-hit game while four others churned out double-digit scores to underscore the Eagles superb offensive sock. Rex Intal finished with 16 points, Josh Villanueva and Paul Koyfman fired 12 hits apiece and skipper Karl Baysa added 11 markers.
The win put Ateneo a victory away from completing a sweep of the mid-season conference of the second season of the country’s premier men’s volley league organized by Sports Vision and backed by Accel as official outfitter.
The Eagles go for the clincher on Saturday.
Bryan Bagunsan turned in a 17-hit performance while Kim Malabunga backed him up with 12 and Francis Saura, Madzlan Gampong and Fauzi Ismail combined for 23 markers for the Bulldogs, who made up for their offensive slack with 11 blocks, including four from Saura and three from Bagunas.
NU also struggled in their service reception, allowing the Eagles to score six aces.
The Bulldogs, who swept the UST Tigers in the Final Four, surprised the Eagles with a solid showing in the opening frame but lost in a tightly fought second set duel. Ateneo kept the momentum of that win and dominated the third but NU struck back to force a decider.
But the Eagles, who also eased out the La Salle Archers in two in the semis, showed great resolve in the crunch and outlasted the Bulldogs to pound the win, spiked by Joner Polvorosa’s 53-excellent sets and Manuel Sumanguid III and Baysa’s 16 and nine digs, respectively.
The Tigers likewise took 1-0 lead in their side of the best-of-three playoff for third with the Archers, scoring a 25-15, 25-18, 25-23.