MANILA -- Ateneo de Manila University brushed off a slow start to repulse the University of the East in four sets, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-19, for its second straight win in the UAAP Season 85 men's volleyball tournament on Saturday at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Opposite hitter Ken Batas paced the Blue Eagles in the fourth-set closeout, sending the Red Warriors reeling to their fifth consecutive loss. Jet Gopio eventually finished the match, which lasted for almost two hours, with a strong kill from the middle.
Batas produced a two-way effort with 20 markers on 19 attacks and a block to go with his eight digs for Ateneo, which boosted its semifinals bid with this victory.
"Every game is important, so we're learning one game at a time. As long as we don't lose sight of the goal to make it to the Final Four, we'll take it one game and one training session at a time," said coach Timmy Sto. Tomas after Ateneo tied De La Salle University in fourth place with an even 4-4 record.
Jian Salarzon had another strong game for Ateneo with 21 points, all coming from attacks, especially in the crucial part of the third set.
The Blue Eagles will try to make it three in a row against Adamson University on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Three straight spikes from Ken Culabat widened UE's lead to 21-16 in the opening set, forcing Ateneo to call for time.
Amil Pacinio fueled a Blue Eagles comeback with his service line play, but JP Mangahis found an open spot at the back for the set-winning kill.
Ateneo's adjustments in the second set, starting Pacinio instead of Abai Llenos, paid dividends as the second-year outside hitter and Salarzon anchored the fight back to equalize the match at the end of two.
This set up a crucial tussle in the third set, and with the frame hanging in the balance at 20-all, Salarzon took over before Batas ended it at 25-22 on back-to-back spikes.
Culabat ended with an 18-point explosion to go with his seven digs, while Mangahis battled through pain in the fourth set to finish with 16 markers and seven excellent receptions.
The Red Warriors, now at 2-6, will look to arrest the skid against University of Santo Tomas on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.