Ateneo's Marck Espejo attempts a spike against NU's Rueben Inaudito. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo fell short in their first Finals appearance since 1980, losing to the defending champions National University (NU) in two games, but their head coach and star player believe the Blue Eagles’ time will soon come.
Both Coach Oliver Almadro and Rookie of the Year/Most Valuable Player Marck Espejo acknowledged that Ateneo came up short against a more experienced NU squad, but are hopeful that this year’s loss will fuel their campaign in Season 77.
“Pag nasa-conference room kami ng Ateneo, may mga frame doon na nakalagay na puro champions,” related the 17-year-old Espejo. “Iniisip namin lagi na mapapasama kami doon. Siyempre I feel bad na hindi pa kami nakasama.”
“Siguro, hindi talaga namin time ngayon,” he added. “Sa NU talaga. Pero by next year, or the next two years, siguro kakayanin na namin.”
Almadro, who was previously the coach of National University, believes his team overachieved by making it to the Finals.
“We were number seven last year, and ang threshold ko is fifth, ang target ko is the Final Four. The threshold is fifth, because we are a young team. But because of God’s work and our hard work, we made it to the Finals,” he said.
Like Espejo, Almadro is hopeful for the Blue Eagles’ future.
“I guess this is just the start. Ang sabi ko sa team, we are all blessed that we’re here, but it’s just the start. Malaking bagay kasi nabago na ‘yung volleyball program sa Ateneo ngayon,” he said.
“Although we want really wanted to be champions – everybody is playing for the title – being a contender is a gift. Being a contender is a reward,” he added.
“Hopefully, this is just the start of the legacy of the Ateneo volleyball program. Sana, magtuloy-tuloy.”