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Ateneo star still confident

By Jerome Lagunzad

Ateneo star Marck Espejo is set to hoist the highest individual award for a league-record fifth straight time, but the Blue Eagles’ three-year reign in the UAAP men’s volleyball tournament is in serious jeopardy against the National University Bulldogs.

For the first time in the last four years, the usually high-flying Blue Eagles are in an unfamiliar – and uncomfortable – situation against the Bulldogs, who overwhelmed them on all fronts for an easy 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 win in the opener of their best-of-three series over the weekend.

But the 6-foot-3 Espejo remains confident that there’s still a lot of fight left on the Blue Eagles as they look to shatter the Bulldogs’ Great Wall of China-like net defense which limited him to just 16 points, a major drop off from his 46-point average in their two-game conquest of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the semifinals.

“Walang pressure kasi sanay naman kami sa finals. Lagi kaming nandito,” said Espejo, who will also claim the Best Scorer, Best Spiker and Best Server honors for yet another remarkable performance on his fifth and final year.

“Siguro hindi lang namin na-execute ng maayos saka naghintay kami kung ano ‘yung gagawin nila. Hindi kami ‘yung (mas aggressive). ‘Yung mga ginagawa namin sa training, hindi namin nailabas.”

Meantime, National University’s Jaja Santiago will be hoisting her first MVP title.

The 6-foot-5 middle blocker and opposite hitter also bagged the Best Spiker title.

Espejo’s fellow graduating Ateneo standouts also groped for form the last time out, with setter Ish Polvorosa coming up with just 11 excellent sets from his 71 attempts and skipper Karl Baysa struggling with just two points, no thanks to NU’s solid defense which came up with 13 kill blocks.