Ateneo needs 4 sets against NU, but successfully defends crown.
Powerhouse Ateneo reaffirmed its mastery over National University yesterday with a 25-14, 18-25, 25-20, 25-20 victory to retain its title via a conference sweep in the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Collegiate Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
The defending champion Eagles toughened up their assault late in the fourth set, where they rose from an 18-19 deficit by scoring five straight points that became the turning point of the one-and-a-half hour match.
Marck Espejo, who later clinched his second Conference Most Valuable Player plum, exploded with 15 points, 14 coming from attacks including a backrow spike that brought Ateneo at matchpoint, 24-20.
A service ace from Rex Intal sealed the title win against the Bulldogs, the same foe they swept last year.
Overall in the conference, Ateneo snared nine victories: five in the group stages, two in the semifinals, and two in the best-of-three championship series.
The Eagles won in Game 1, 16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11, last Wednesday.
Six-foot-8 Russian-American rookie Tony Koyfman also sizzled for the Eagles with 15 points and was later on adjudged as the Finals MVP.
“It’s good to win this one, but it’s just a mark for the UAAP. We need this kind of preparation for the UAAP,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, whose team is aiming for a three-peat this season.
NU absorbed its second straight runnerup finish despite Bryan Bagunas leading the Bulldogs with 15 points.
The Eagles leaned on their height advantage by dominating the attack zone, 44-34, and the service area, 7-3, although the Bulldogs managed to provide a strong net defense with seven blocks.
In the end, it was Ateneo’s composure that prevailed.
Meanwhile, University of Santo Tomas clinched third place via a superior quotient despite losing in Game 2 to La Salle, 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21.
Completing the individual awards 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).