Year of dominance: After title retention, Alinsunurin looks to fill void left by key players

There’s no halting the National University (NU) Bulldogs in stamping their dominance in the men’s volleyball stage.

NU finished the tournament in masterful fashion as they overpowered the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in four sets, 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19, to take the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball tournament championship earlier at the Mall of Asia Arena.

After dropping the opening set via strong blocking by the Tamaraws, the Bulldogs bounced back with their dominant offensive arsenal to take the succeeding sets and the title.

It has been a stellar volleyball run for the Bulldogs, not only recording victory in the local scene but achieving international success as well.

NU made rounds last December as they vanquished defending champions Thailand in a straight-set victory to take the 19th ASEAN University Games volleyball crown in Myanmar.

While they started their UAAP season with a loss against the Tamaraws, head coach Dante Alinsunurin reminded his players of what they achieved preseason in order to bounce back.

“Sobrang laking bagay sa amin kasi galing kami sa ASEAN University Games and then nag-training kami sa Japan, tapos ganoon lang yung nangyari sa amin? So nagising talaga ‘yung team–buti naman at nakabalik kami doon sa panalo and patuloy lang namin siyang ginawa,” he said.

After losing their opening game of the season, the Bulldogs went on to dominate the league with their 16-game winning streak.

This is Alinsunurin’s fourth championship with the Bulldogs, after also achieving a back-to-back feat in Season 75 and 76.

Even double-digit performances by five FEU players couldn’t stop season and Finals MVP Bryan Bagunas as he led NU’s attacking prowess to neutralize FEU’s strong blocking and snatch the succeeding sets.

The graduating open spiker finished as the lone double-digit scorer for his team, registering 35 big points to give NU back-to-back championships in the UAAP.

Alinsunurin had nothing but praises for Bagunas, who proved instrumental in NU’s campaign for the last five years.

“”Wala talaga akong masasabi sa batang ‘to–‘yung sipag sa ensayo at ‘yung dedication sa paglalaro ng volleyball, grabe talaga. Siyempre, sa tulong na rin ng teammates niya, kasi kanya-kanya naman kaming trabaho e,” Alinsunurin said.

With Bagunas and middle blockers Francis Saura and Kim Malabunga graduating from the team, the Bulldogs might experience some turbulence in their succeeding campaigns.

However, the head coach said they are willing to start from scratch again, expecting his graduating players to still help the team whatever way they can.

“May mga pamalit na ako [sa mga mawawala] and kailangan na talaga naming magtrabaho mula simula ulit,” Alinsunurin said.

“Ang hiling ko na lang sa kanila after nila grumaduate, ‘pag may time sila punta lang sila sa school pumasyal para kahit papano makasabay sila sa ensayo ng mga baguha,” he added.

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