UAAP: Bulldogs escape Blue Eagles, complete elims head-to-head sweep

Mark Escalorte, ABS-CBN Sports

Posted at Mar 30 2019 03:25 PM

Defending champion National University moved closer to a Final Four berth after carving out a 25-19, 25-20, 19-25, 25-27, 15-10, escape over archrival Ateneo de Manila University in the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball tournament Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Bryan Bagunas starred in the Bulldogs’ ninth straight win for a 9-1 win-loss record at the solo top spot. NU completed its eliminations head-to-head sweep of the Blue Eagles and registered its fourth straight victory over Ateneo since last season’s Finals.

The graduating hitter and national team member scored 25 points, with all but one coming off attacks including four in the fifth frame. Angelo Almendras added 18 markers while James Natividad and Kim Malabunga got 17 and 10 points, respectively, for the Bulldogs, who had 64 attack points behind Joshua Retamar’s 39 excellent sets.

The Bulldogs took a 9-7 lead in the fifth frame off a Bagunas hit. The Blue Eagles answered in the next play but NU pushed its lead to 12-8.

Ateneo got within two, 10-12, but a service error by Ariel Morado opened the door for the Bulldogs to finish off the Katipunan-based squad with a Natividad kill before Francis Saura turned back Ron Medalla’s attack.

“Medyo nag-relax kasi ang mga bata then siyempre sinuwerte ang kalaban. Then ang nangyari kasi ang tempo ng laro nanggaling sa kanila (Ateneo) eh, biglang kami ang sumusunod sa kanila. Kami ang naghahabol sa kung anuman ang gusto nilang mangyari sa game. Buti na lang noong fifth set naka-recover kami,” said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin, who is also the national team mentor.

(The kids relaxed a bit so the opponents got some luck. Then the tempo of the game was set by Ateneo, it was us following them. We were chasing whatever they wanted to happen. Fortunately, we recovered in the fifth set.)

“Minindset namin 'yung service receive namin and then 'yung blocking namin nakuha namin ang timing.”

(We set our minds on our service-receive and then our blocking, we got the timing.)

Meanwhile, Adamson University improved to a 5-4 slate after downing University of the Philippines, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20, 32-30, in the curtain-raiser.

Paolo Pablico exploded with 31 points, 27 coming off attacks, and 15 digs while Jadewin Gudoy and George Labang had 16 and 14 markers, respectively, for the Falcons, who sent the Fighting Maroons to a 1-8 slate.

NU got a chance to seal the victory in the fourth frame after a terrible outing in the third but the Bulldogs squandered a 24-21 lead and allowed the Blue Eagles to save four match points before Lawrence Magadia scored back-to-back hits to force a decider.

Ateneo slid to a 6-4 slate despite the 18-point effort of Chumason Njigha.

Tony Koyfman had 15 points while Medalla and John Rivera scored 13 and 10, respectively, for the Blue Eagles.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.