FORMER Ateneo star Marck Espejo wants to see someone from the Blue Eagles roster step up and lead from the front in the UAAP Season 81 men’s volleyball tournament.
The five-time UAAP MVP, who is making a mark in the Japan V. Premier League despite his team Oita Miyosho's woeful 4-23 record, is in the country for shoulder therapy. He will be flying back to Japan on Monday to play in a pocket tournament set in early May.
In his two weeks stay in the Philippines, Espejo watched both elimination-round losses of his alma mater to rival National University.
“Ewan ko, sa dalawang game na pinanood ko talo sila. Siguro malas yata ako, bad luck,” Espejo told reporters after Ateneo’s 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 27-25, 10-15 defeat on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
But Espejo saw signs of progress, after the Blue Eagles erased a two-set deficit and dragged the Bulldogs to a fifth set before falling short in the end. They lost to the Bulldogs in straight sets in the first round.
“Improving naman sila. Hindi sila 'yung top team parang yung lumalabas sa league na to underdogs sila sa FEU and NU,” said Espejo of Ateneo, which is running third in the standings with a 6-4 win-loss record.
“Pero may mga (lapses) nga lang like pag crucial time ang daming errors. Kailangan talaga nila bawasan yung errors nila.”
The three-time UAAP champion said he faced the same problem in his final season with the team last year. That’s why the Eagles just have to be patient and step up, he added.
“Basta dahil senior ako last time na naglaro ako tina-try ko i-lead yung team. Kung ibibigay sa akin 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.”
Espejo has been particularly hard on Ron Medalla, who responded by unleashing 32 points in their second-round win over Far Eastern University last week.
“Wala naman akong personal na kinakausap pero tina-try ko i-lead sila, para kasing pag nagmo-motivate ako in a bad way,” Espejo said. “Negative para isipin nila ma-realize nila na ganun nga yung kailangang gawin.”
“Lagi kong niloloko si Ron. Lagi ko siyang niloloko [na], 'bakit ganyan pa rin laro mo?' Pero nung nag 32 points siya last time, natuwa naman ako sa kanya,” he added.
Espejo already committed to to play for Cignal in the Spikers’ Turf but he will only see action at the end of his contract in May. He is also waiting if Oita Miyoshi will re-sign him as import for next season.
“Hindi pa ako nagsa-sign sa Cignal, nag-commit pa lang,” Espejo said. “Sa May pa lang ako magsa-sign sa kanila after ng commitment ko sa Japan.”