MANILA, Philippines - Ateneo de Manila University braces for a furious battle with De La Salle University as it seeks to keep its hot streak going even as National University (NU) and University of the Philippines (UP) try to stay in the semifinal race in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference men's division at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan on Saturday.
Though they had already secured the first Final Four berth with a sweep of their first five games, the Eagles aren’t expected to slow down a bit particularly against their archrivals as they seek to stay in fierce form heading to the semis of the season-ending conference of the league.
For one, the Archers are going flat out to stop the Eagles in their 8 a.m. face-off, needing to improve on their third running 3-2 card with NU and UST hot on their trail with 2-2 and 2-3 marks, respectively, heading to the homestretch of the single round eliminations among eight teams.
The match also features the league’s leading scorers with No. 1 Marck Espejo tipped to anchor the Eagles’ attack again and Cris Dumago and Arjay Onia, the Nos. 2 and 3 in scoring, respectively, to spearhead the Taft-based squad’s charge.
Ateneo is also tops in blocks through Gian Glorioso and serves behind Joner Polvorosa, who is also the league’s leading setter, while La Salle leads the eight-team field in digs behind Jopet Movido.
Ateneo has also emerged as the league’s top receiving team with 55.90 percent efficient with La Salle in second (46.30 percent) followed by UST (45.16) and (43.09).
Meanwhile, expect the Bulldogs to likewise unleash their full might against the back-to-wall UP Maroons as they try to keep the Tigers at bay in a spirited battle for the last two semis spots in the tournament.
Far Eastern University is a cinch for the second semis Final Four spot with a 4-1 slate.
San Beda College and UP tote identical 1-3 cards with the Maroons hoping to sweep their last three games and gain at last a playoff for the last seat.
NU will pin its hopes on Fauzi Ismail, James Natividad, Bryan Bagunas and Kim Malabunga, who combined for 62 points in its four-set win over UST last Monday.
UP, on the other hand, hopes to stay alive behind Wendel Miguel, Nicolo Consuejo, Jerry San Pedro and Matthew Gohoc.
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