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Ateneo nears three-peat

Games Saturday
(The Arena, San Juan City)
10 a.m. – UST vs NU (for third, men’s)
1 p.m. – Ateneo vs FEU (men’s finals)
4 p.m. – Arellano vs Adamson
(for third, women’s)
Presentation of Awards
6:30 p.m. – NU vs FEU
(women’s finals)

Ateneo overcame a slow start to beat Far Eastern University, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19, and inch closer to retaining the men’s crown in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference yesterday at The Arena in San Juan City.

The Blue Eagles recovered from 13-10 and 20-19 deficits with reigning MVP Marck Espejo and Gian Carlo Glorioso at the center of their attacks to draw the first blood in their best-of-three championship series.

Another win for Ateneo on Saturday’s Game 2 will earn them their third consecutive title in this three-year-old league.

Glorioso and Espejo pumped in 15 and 14 points, respectively, while combining for 22 of the team’s 44 attack points as the Eagles matched the Tamaraws aggressiveness before launching their own assault in the last two frames.

“Yung energy ng FEU, yun yung bread and butter talaga nila. They live and die with their energy so, I just told my players to level up their intensity,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, whose team survived University of Santo Tomas in the best-of-three semifinals, 2-1.

FEU briefly took the lead 13-11 in the third set after back-to-back errors from Ateneo.

But the Eagles were quick to adjust and made five straight points to get back on the driver’s seat anew, 16-13.

Combination plays from Redijohn Paler and John Paul Bugaoan gave the Tamaraws some life, but the Eagles were simply too much to handle.

Glorioso and Espejo also conspired for three of Ateneo’s five blocks, with Espejo also adding two aces and five digs.

Veteran Ish Polvorosa also outplayed FEU setter Kris Silang by providing more plays with 30 excellent sets compared to the latter’s 12.

Meanwhile, UST squeaked past resurgent National University, 17-25, 28-26, 20-25, 25-21, 27-25, in their own best-of-three affair for third place.

Joshua Umandal exploded for 28 points built on 26 kills and two aces as the Tigers shattered the Bulldogs’ rock-solid net defense at crunch time.

Umandal’s efforts overshadowed the efforts of Madzlan Gampong and Fauzi Ismail, who had 25 and 20 points in a futile attempt for NU.

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