MARCK Espejo led the way anew for Ateneo as it frustrated Far Eastern University, 25-19, 18-25, 25-22, 25-18, in the do-or-die match on Wednesday to book its fifth straight finals appearance in the UAAP volleyball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Espejo, the four-time MVP, who scored a league record 55 points in their previous match, made 37 markers and 10 digs for the Blue Eagles, while graduating setter Ish Polvorosa registered all of the team’s 40 excellent sets.
“Sabi nila (players) last night, ‘Coach we will never back down.’ Noong narinig ko ‘yun, ibig sabihin, all out sila for today,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro.
The win kept alive Ateneo's bid for a fourth straight title, eliminating the FEU team that entered the semifinals as the No. 2 seeds.
Ateneo arranged a rematch with National University in the best-of-three finals, which starts on Saturday.
It will be the fifth title duel between the Blue Eagles and the Bulldogs with a 3-1 edge on the Katipunan-based squad but Almadro insisted that they are the underdogs.
“No. 3 kami, No. 1 sila so most probably, kami ang underdog,” he said. “Ano eh, they have the materials talaga, for the past ilang taon they have the materials.”
“Siguro nagkakataon lang na ‘yung mga players ko prepared well kaya nakukuha namin. What's important is we will be prepared, we will do our best, we will better our best,” he added.
Redijohn Paler finished with 14 points for FEU, while Jude Garcia added 11 and John Paul Bugaoan chipped in 10.
Graduating libero Rikko Mamerto, who was reduced to tears after the match, registered 13 digs and 24 excellent receptions in his final match in the UAAP.