NATIONAL University earned its ninth straight win the hard way, edging Ateneo, 25-19, 25-20, 19-25, 25-27, 15-10, in the UAAP Season 81 volleyball tournament on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
Bryan Bagunas led the way with 25 points, 24 coming from attacks, as NU improved to 9-1 and moved closed to a Final Four berth.
Rookie Nico Almendras nailed 14 spikes, three blocks and an ace for 18 points. James Natividad contributed 17 markers, while Kim Malabunga added 10.
Joshua Retamar had 39 excellent sets, while libero Ricky Marcos had 31 digs and 20 excellent receptions for NU, which faces La Salle (3-6) on Sunday next week at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“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,” said NU coach Dante Alinsunurin.
“Kami ang naghahabol sa kung anuman ang gusto nilang mangyari sa game. Buti na lang noong fifth set naka-recover kami. Minindset namin yung service receive namin and then yung blocking naming nakuha namin ang timing.”
The Bulldogs committed 10 of their 34 errors in the third set, while they blew four match points in the fourth set before Egie Magadia scored back-to-back points that forced a fifth frame.
Chumason Njigha scored 18 to lead Ateneo, Tony Koyfman had 15 points and Ron Medalla added 13 points.
John Rivera added 10 markers and made 30 excellent receptions and nine digs for the Blue Eagles, which dropped to 6-4 slate for third place before their match against the UP Maroons (1-8) on Saturday also at the Big Dome.
Meanwhile, Paolo Pablico erupted for 31 points as Adamson beat University of the Philippines, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20, 32-30, for a 5-4 card, still in fourth spot.
Pablico fired 27 kills, three blocks and an ace and made 15 digs, Jadewin Gudoy scored 16 and George Labang added 14 points.
Adamson battles FEU (7-1) on Wednesday at the Arena in San Juan.
John Mark Millette had 16 points, Jerry San Pedro scored 12 and Nicolo Consuelo chiped in with 11 points and Ruskin Ijiran added 10 for the Maroons, which dropped to 1-8 before facing the UST (3-5) also on Wednesday.