Former Ateneo de Manila University star Marck Espejo couldn’t help but joke that his presence "jinxed" the Blue Eagles’ head-to-head matchup against archrival National University.
“Siguro, ewan ko. Dalawang game na pinanood, ko talo sila. Siguro malas ata ako, bad luck,” he jested Saturday following the Blue Eagles’ 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 27-25, 10-15, loss to the Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball tournament at the MOA Arena.
Espejo also watched Ateneo’s straight sets first round loss to NU a couple of weeks ago after his return back to the country following his stint with Oita Miyoshi Weiss Adler in the Japan V. Premier League. He is in the country for therapy on his injured right rotator cuff he sustained, according to Espejo, due to overuse.
But compared to their first game, Espejo still praised the improvement of his former squad.
“Pero hindi, improving naman sila,” said the five-time Most Valuable Player. “Hindi sila ‘yung top team parang ‘yung lumalabas sa league na to underdogs sila sa FEU and NU.”
The Blue Eagles recovered from two sets down but NU’s firepower, experience and composure down the stretch proved too much for Ateneo, which committed 30 errors.
“Improving naman sila pero may mga ano nga lang like ‘pag crucial time ang daming errors,” said Espejo, who led Ateneo to five straight title stints, winning three straight crowns for the Katipunan-based squad from Season 77 to 79. “Kailangan talaga nila bawasan ‘yung errors nila.”
The Blue Eagles fell to 6-4 slate.
As a former Ateneo leader from the outside looking in, Espejo would want to see someone from this batch of Blue Eagles emerge as a real leader inside the court.
“Basta dahil senior ako last time na naglaro ako tina-try ko i-lead yung team. Kung ibibigay sa’kin yung bola gagawan ko ng paraan,” he said. “Time naman nila ngayon so alam ko lahat sila mag-step up naman, it takes time talaga.”
“Wala naman akong personal na kinakausap pero tina-try ko i-lead sila para kasing pag nagmo-motivate ako in a bad way, negative para isipin nila, ma-realize nila na ganun nga ‘yung kailangang gawin,” Espejo added. “Lagi kong niloloko si Ron (Medalla). Lagi ko siyang niloloko, ‘Ba’t ganyan pa rin laro mo?’ Pero nung nag-32 points (against FEU) siya last time natuwa naman ako sa kanya.”
Espejo, who turned heads with his firepower and skills with the Weiss Adler despite a disappointing 4-23 record, will return to Japan on Monday to suit up for the Kurowashigi pocket tournament in Osaka early May. He hopes to have a contract renewal with Oita Miyoshi after his current deal expires at the end of May.
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