MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) retained the UAAP men’s volleyball crown after sweeping the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the finals, and the Bulldogs believe their championship experience was a major factor in the best-of-three showdown.
Against a younger Ateneo squad, NU’s veteran core of Peter Torres, Ben Inaudito, and Berlin Paglinawan stepped up big time, powering the Bulldogs to a three-set sweep in Game 1 and a four-set victory in Game 2.
“Siyempre sobrang laki noong (championship experience),” NU coach Dante Alinsunurin said after Game 2. “Last year, FEU ‘yung kalaban namin at ‘yung mga bata, natuto na sa pressure. Ang laki noon.”
He was also full of praise for his veterans, who helped settle down the team inside the court after the Bulldogs committed a variety of errors that kept Ateneoa live in Set 4.
“Naging factor sila sa game namin, ‘yung mga seniors namin na talagang lumaban kahit na medyo marami kaming errors,” said Alinsunurin.
Skipper Inaudito, named the Finals Most Valuable Player after being NU’s most consistent performer in the series, said their experience of playing in the championship last year helped them deal with the pressure of the crowd as well.
“Sobrang advantage talaga namin ‘yun, ‘yung exposure pa lang sa mga crowd,” he said. “’Yung experience sa champion game, sobrang advantage namin ‘yun sa kanila.”
Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, a former coach for the Bulldogs, conceded that NU’s championship experience was a huge factor that his young, talented team could not overcome.
“Experienced talaga ‘yung NU,” he said. “At sa men’s team (sa Ateneo) kailangan pa namin ng experience. Doon kami dehado ngayon – experience.”
“But this year is a very good experience for us. We made it to the Finals, and hopefully, itong one year na ito will prepare us for the next year,” Almadro added.