Marck Espejo returned from a UAAP tournament stint and rammed in 23 hits, powering Ateneo past UST, 22-25, 25-22, 31-29, 25-13, to clinch the other finals berth in the men’s tournament of the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan on Monday.
Espejo, who missed the Eagles’ game last Saturday which the Tigers took, 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, to set up this rubber match, blasted in 20 kills in his return to action from a beach volley tournament as Ateneo arranged a title clash with Far Eastern U, which earlier swept National U in their side of the semis of the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
Ateneo thus earned a third straight championship appearance since the Eagles swept their way to the championship in two collegiate conferences of the defunct V-League.
The best-of-three championship series begins tomorrow.
Adamson and FEU, meanwhile, were disputing the second finals berth in the women’s division of the tournament backed by Mikasa and Asics.
The Eagles actually struggled in the early going, yielding the opening frame but they imposed their will and power in the next three to outlast the Tigers.
“First of all, I thank the Lord for the strength and the power and the guidance,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro. “You know naman na Marck and Karl (Baysa) are coming from beach volleyball pa rin, but still they managed to show their leadership, pati si Ish (Polvorosa).”
Gian Carlo Glorioso scored 11 points while Ishmael Rivera made 10 markers for the Katipunan-based squad.
UST, behind Joshua Umandal’s inspired play, took the opening set and gave the Blue Eagles a tough time in the second before fading at endgame of the second, enabling the Eagles to equalize before sustaining their momentum in the next two sets.
Ateneo actually blew a 24-20 lead in the third as UST forced a deuce game before Espejo, a four-time UAAP MVP, gave the Blue Eagles a 30-29 lead. Ateneo snatched the set on a UST attack error.
The Blue Eagles re-stamped their class in the fourth which they dominated from start to finish.
Umandal had 20 points anchored on 18 attacks, while Manuel Medina fired 12 markers for the Tigers, who will take on the Bulldogs for third place.