MANILA – National University's Bryan Bagunas leapt to superstardom in UAAP Season 81, as he established himself as the best player in the men's volleyball tournament.
Bagunas was the Finals MVP when the Bulldogs dethroned Ateneo de Manila University in Season 80, but it was in Season 81 that he fully embraced the spotlight. As the undisputed No. 1 option of a powerhouse NU team, Bagunas would emerge as the league's best scorer, its most efficient attacker, and the obvious choice for MVP.
He led the Bulldogs to a 13-1 record while scoring a total of 285 points and registering a 53.49 percent attacking efficiency. He was also the league's top server, with an average of 0.47 ace per set.
For Bagunas, his exceptional performance in Season 81 was a direct response to his coach, Dante Alinsunurin.
"Sinabihan na agad ako ni Coach na kailangan niya ako ngayong season," said Bagunas on Saturday. "Binigay niya 'yung tiwala niya sa akin."
"Hindi ko na 'yun pinakawalan," he added. "Binigay ko na 'yung best ko."
With Bagunas leading the way, the Bulldogs marched to the UAAP men's volleyball Finals where they are currently facing the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
In Game 1 last Saturday, Bagunas put up 18 points on 16 kills, towing the Bulldogs to a 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 triumph and earning praise from his coach.
"Si Bryan kasi, practice pa lang, binibigay niya talaga ang best niya. Kaya sabi ko, kung anong para sa'yo, mapupunta sa'yo yan," said Alinsunurin. "Wag ka lang mag-madali. Basta mag-pokus ka lang kung paano mo matutulungan mga teammate mo. Tuloy-tuloy lang."
Bagunas is set to receive the MVP trophy – among other awards – ahead of Game 2 on Wednesday.
"Siyempre, sobrang saya ko," said Bagunas. "Hindi ko naman talaga ine-expect 'yung ganoong bagay. Nagpalasalamat ako sa coaching staff and sa teammates ko."
Yet as much as he cherishes the award, he says that their real reward comes if they close out the Tamaraws in Game 2.
"Mas importante 'yung championships eh. Kapag nakuha mo 'yung championship, habang buhay mo ng dala 'yun. 'Yung awards parang incentive lang naman 'yan," said Bagunas.
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