After four-time MVP Mark Espejo dropped 55 points to extend their hopes for another finals berth and a four-peat, Ateneo Coach Oliver Almadro is nothing but praises for his senior player.
As he made his way to the press room, Almadro poked fun at Espejo, saying the senior player is trying to surpass the recent scoring record made by Gigi Silva.
Silva, who recently played in the Philippine Superliga for SMART Giga hitters, scored 56 points off 53 kills in five sets.
But unlike Silva, Espejo’s explosion did not go in vain as Ateneo won over Far Eastern University.
“‘Yung ginawa ni Mark, si [Gigi] Silva ang hinahabol niya pero hindi inabot. Pero next time,” Almadro said.
“Anyway, points lang ‘yan. Ang importante ay ‘yung tiwala ng teammates niya sa kanya at ang tiwala niya sa teammates niya,” he added.
The very animated coach, meanwhile, said that Espejo is not only a gift for Ateneo but also to Philippine volleyball.
“Well, God’s gift talaga si Mark. Hindi lang sa Ateneo pati sa Philippine volleyball. Rare tayong makakakita na kagaya ni Mark,” the coach said.
“Mark is a monster. I mean he’s there defense, a little bit struggle in the serve but when it matters he made the points,” Almadro added.
According to Almadro, there are other good players in the Philippines but what makes Espejo stood out is his heart.
“Magagaling din ‘yung iba katulad nina Bagunas, sila Quiel, sila Bugaoan. Magagaling din sila and I admire them,” he said.
“Pero iba ‘yung ibinigay ni Mark. Siyempre, hindi naman ‘yun magagawa ni Mark kung wala ‘yung teammates niya,” Almadro added.
Almadro also lauded his other wards for doing their respective roles for the team all throughout the season.
He specifically cited setter Ish Polovora’s important role for the team.
“I really apprreciate the resiliency of my players. They just believed in the system, they believe na hindi kailangang spectacular, they just need it right,” he said.
“Well, ibang klase ang trinabaho ng seniors ko, si Ish at si Mark. Sabi rin nila na hindi nila bibitawan tong last playing year nila. Magtutulong tulong sila and lead this team every game,” he added.
Espejo’s 55-point explosion is unprecedented in the UAAP men’s volleyball to date, but for Almadro this wouldn’t happen if not for the help of some Ateneo players. And of course, the intervention of prayers.
“I also commend my other players who delivered when it matters,” he said.
“To everyone who prayed for us, to the Ateneo community who kept believing, thank you,” Almadro added.