Blue Eagles play down 'favorite' tag in Spikers' Turf Collegiate Conference
Ateneo coach Oliver Almandro points to EAC and Benilde as the top favorites in the coming Spikers' Turf tournament. Czar Dancel

ATENEO coach Oliver Almadro plays down suggestions the reigning UAAP champion is the team to beat in the coming Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference.

Almadro said he doesn’t see the Blue Eagles as the favorite to win the title and instead, pointed to NCAA champion Emilio Aguinaldo College and College of St. Benilde as the top title contenders.

“As a team to beat, hindi kami ‘yun,” said Almadro when caught up with him during Wednesday’s meeting of representatives from the participating teams at Shakey’s Malate.

“Ang mga teams to beat EAC, CSB lahat matitibay ‘yan,” he said. “Sina John Vic (de Guzman of CSB) national team, si (Howard) Mojica (of EAC) nag-club team rin ‘yan, Arellano. So sila ang malalakas sa NCAA kasi nasa top 4 sila.”

From the ranks of the UAAP, Almadro mentioned National University of Far Eastern University.

“Ganoon rin sa UAAP, NU nandyan, FEU,” he added. “And FEU is intact from last year’s lineup nila so napakalaking bagay noon para sa FEU. Ang NU ganoon rin napakalalaki (and) lahat yata ng magagaling sa Palarong Pambansa na-recruit nila.”

One distinct advantage the Blue Eagles have, however, is the confidence earned during their title run in the UAAP last season.

“Ateneo, coming from the UAAP, may konting halong confidence ang mga bata,” he said. “Pero sabi ko nga hindi pwedeng mag-complacent kasi the best ‘yung mga teams na kasali.”

But at the same time, the outspoken mentor expressed excitement at competing in a first-ever inter-school men’s competition.

“Masaya ako kasi ngayon there is an avenue for men’s teams to be exposed,” Almadro said.

Aside from Ateneo, Emilio Aguinaldo, College of St. Benilde, Arellano, Far Eastern University, and National University, others in the field include La Salle, University of the Philippines, La Salle-Dasmarinas, Mapua, and National College of Business and Arts.

UST has yet to confirm if it will participate in the tournament, with the organizing Sports Vision giving the school a day to make a decision on the matter.

As of post time though, organizers have yet to receive a word from the Espana-based school.

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