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Espejo, Blue Spikers hand NU its first loss

By Anton Roxas Posted Jan 19th 2014

Ateneo dealt NU its first loss of the season in straight sets.

There will be a Final Four in the UAAP Season 76 Men’s Volleyball tournament.

Ateneo de Manila University sent shockwaves around the league after sweeping defending champion National University in straight sets, winning, 25-21, 26-24, 25-23 in their second round match on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at the Arena in San Juan City.

Sixteen year old rookie sensation Marck Espejo once again had a splendid performance with a game high 20 points to lead the Blue Spikers.

After Ateneo drew first blood by taking the first set, the Loyola Heights-based squad showed incredible composure late in the second set as the Bulldogs mounted a comeback. The Blue Spikers scored two straight points to pull away from NU after the latter managed to tie the set up at 24-all. Espejo ended the set by chasing the volleyball, which was tossed up close to the left antenna, twisting his body and spiking it cross court to an open spot on the Bulldogs defense.

Entering the match, NU was ranked seventh in the league in receiving and last in digging, and that weakness was clearly exposed against Ateneo. Because of the inability of the Bulldogs to receive the ball well, they could not execute their offense.

Berlin Paglinawan, who leads NU in scoring averaging 12 points per match, finished with a measly 5 points while Peter Torres, who averages 11.5 points per outing, had a season-low 4 points.

Ricci Gonzales, who suffered a high ankle sprain on his right foot, made his return to action after missing three games and scored crucial points in the third set to give the Blue Spikers an extra boost.

With the win, Ateneo improved to 5-3 while NU tasted their loss of the season but still remain at the top of the standings at 7-1.

In the first match, De La Salle University crushed the University of the Philippines in straight sets, winning, 25-18, 25-17, 25-22.

Red Christensen led the way for the Green Spikers with 19 markers.

La Salle now sports an identical 3-5 record just like the Fighting Maroons.