MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University (FEU) pulled off the biggest upset of the young UAAP men's volleyball tournament when the Tamaraws upended three-time defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in their first game of Season 80.
The Tamaraws were simply dominant against the Blue Eagles on Sunday, sweeping their way to a 25-18, 25-19, 25-22 triumph.
It was the first time since UAAP Season 76 that FEU defeated Ateneo, which also ended the Blue Eagles' 30-match winning streak since Season 78.
A beaming FEU coach Rey Diaz credited the giant upset to his team's hard work, adding that they were simply motivated to end what had been an eight-game losing streak to the Blue Eagles.
"From the players to the coaching staff, nag-contribute," said Diaz. "Dini-dedicate namin lahat sa mga mahal namin sa buhay."
FEU exposed plenty of holes in Ateneo's game. They racked up 10 blocks in the game, frustrated four-time MVP Marck Espejo into one of his most inefficient games ever, and limited the explosive Blue Eagles to a paltry 28-hit output.
Diaz humbly insisted that they did not anticipate a straight sets win over the defending champions.
"Nagpa-practice rin sila eh. Naging maganda lang siguro talaga, sabi nga ng mga coaching staff, na pagandahan lang ng gising," said the coach.
"Naging maganda ang gising ng mga bata, and maganda rin kasi ang motivation nila," he added.
What's crucial for FEU now is to build on their remarkable effort against the Blue Eagles, and not to be satisfied with just one victory.
"Sana huwag makuntento ang mga bata," Diaz said of his players. "Kasi, kapag nakuntento tayo, hindi na kami mage-excel."
"Malaking bagay kasi, mage-gain namin ang confidence, kaya sana huwag mag-relax," he stressed.
As far as Diaz is concerned, their triumph over the Blue Eagles is just one more step that FEU has to take in their quest to make it back to the top of the men's division of UAAP volleyball. They came oh-so-close in Season 79, but lost to National University in truly heartbreaking fashion in the stepladder semifinals.
The painful end of their campaign last season is just another motivating factor for the Tamaraws as they compete in Season 80.
"Kahit na mananalo (kami), ang motivation namin ay 'yung one step last year," said Diaz. "Laging siya ang ipinapaalala ko sa amin, kasi 'yun na 'yun eh."
Another source of motivation for the Tamaraws? Legendary FEU coach Kid Santos, who passed away in November 2017.
"Sabi nga ni Coach Kid, walang titigil hangga't hindi pa tapos ang laban," Diaz said. "Para kay Coach Kid ang laban na 'to."
The FEU men's volleyball team return to action on Saturday, against Adamson University.
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