Ateneo leaned on its power game to buck Far Eastern U’s superb blocking, scoring a 25-22, 25-20, 25-19 victory on Wednesday to move within a win from claiming the men’s crown in the PVL Collegiate Conference at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
Gian Glorioso and Marck Espejo combined for a 29-hit game as the Eagles produced 44 kills, 13 more than the Tams, who, however, foiled a number of Ateneo attacks upfront for a 10-block effort against the Eagles’ five.
Glorioso took charge in the second set while Espejo, the four-time UAAP MVP, imposed his will in third, rallying the Eagles from a two-point deficit midway through on their way to completing a straight-set romp in the opener of their best-of-three series for the crown in the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
“They (FEU) live and die with their energy and intensity. I just told my players that we have to match that and that’s when we were able to play better. They (FEU) were forcing fast plays on us but through little rallies, we’re able to recover,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro.
Glorioso led the three-time UAAP champions with 15 points while Espejo finished with 14 points off 11 attacks, two aces and a kill block with 12 excellent receptions and five digs to boot in the tournament and backed by Mikasa and Asics.
The Tams actually kept the game close in each set, using fast plays to disrupt the defense of the Eagles, who however were able to adjust in time to neutralize the Morayta-based squad.
Ishmael Rivera and Njigha came through with seven points apiece while Ron Medalla added six hits, Baysa chipped in four markers and setter Joner Polvorosa added two points on top of 30 excellent sets for the Eagles.
Ateneo, dragged into a sudden death by UST in the Final Four, seeks the clincher at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
John Paul Bugaoan finished with 13 points while Redijohn Paler got 11 markers for the Tams, who swept the National U Bulldogs in the semis.
Meanwhile, University of Sto. Tomas wore down NU in a gripping five-setter, 17-25, 28-26, 20-25, 25-21, 27-25, to seize the lead in their side of the best-of-three series for third.
Joshua Umandal hit 28 points while Arnold Bautista and Juren Buro combined for 19 markers for the Tigers.
The Bulldogs, who sat out UAAP beach volley bet Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad, drew 25 points from Madzlan Gampong and 20 markers from Fauzi Ismail.