by Kristel Satumbaga
Games Wednesday (Mall of Asia Arena)
11:30 a.m. – Presentation of Men’s Individual Awards
12 noon – NU vs FEU (men’s finals)
3:30 p.m. – Presentation of Women’s Individual Awards
4 p.m. – UST vs Ateneo (women’s finals)
National University (NU) inched closer to defending its UAAP men’s volleyball crown after turning back Far Eastern University (feu), 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-18, yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Bulldogs bucked a slow start against the aggressive Tamaraws before finding their rhythm in the next three sets to take Game 1 of their best-of-three championship series and moved one win away from a second straight title.
Bryan Bagunas fueled NU throughout by firing 18 points including 16 at the attack line while James Natividad scored when it mattered most to finish with 16 points on 15 kills and one ace.
The Bulldogs had to dig deep in outlasting the Tamaraws in the second and third frames before seizing the tempo at the start of the fourth by leading 7-2 for good.
NU banked on championship experience after being in the finals for seven straight years, but coach Dante Alinsunurin admitted they were caught flat-footed in the opening set.
“Yung experience namin yung nagdala sa amin lalo na sa kung paano mag-adjust after nung first set (Our experience helped us adjust after that first-set loss),” said Alinsunurin, adding that his stalwarts struggled to stay in the game plan against FEU’s solid attacks led by Richard Solis and John Paul Bugaoan.
That adjustment led to the Bulldogs intensifying their net defense anchored on Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura.
Solis and Bugaoan scored 17 and 14 points but their efforts weren’t enough to lift the Tamaraws to the winning column.
Game 2 is set on Wednesday with NU gunning for its fourth title overall.