Despite the straight sets victory over UST, Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro saw first-game jitters from his Blue Spikers during the opener of the UAAP Season 78 men’s volleyball tournament.
The Blue Spikers dismantled the Tiger Spikers, 25-21, 25-18, 29-27, Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Arena to jumpstart its title defense with a win.
“As usual, there were still first-game jitters. The end game was anti-climactic but that’s the way it is. Clearly, we still have a lot of adjustments to do,” Almadro told the press.
Though the mentor is trying to play down the expectations, it is undeniable that Ateneo is still tagged as the team to beat this season due to having an intact lineup.
“I hope it doesn’t remain as just a tag,” the mentor quipped.
Turning serious, he adds, “We are aware that everybody is eyeing us. Every team is looking forward to beat us which is why we can’t stop. Everyday, every game, we make sure that we become a better team than we were yesterday.”
Ateneo was cruising towards an easy win in the first two frames but UST showed grit in the third set to come within striking distance only to sputter in crunch time.
The late-game meltdown, according to Almadro, was the exact opposite of what he expected.
“I expected my team to play slow in the first or second set since it’s our first game,” he shared.
Reigning MVP Marck Espejo picked up where he left off from last season as he scorched hot with 17 points built on 15 kills and two service aces.
Ysay Marasigan and Rex Intal provided ample support for Ateneo’s star spiker, finishing with identical 11-point outputs.
On the side of UST, no one scored in double digits with Arnold Bautista top scoring with a measly 8 points.
On not taking the opponent lightly, Almadro says, “Their players are big and UST has a rich volleyball tradition. Odjie Mamon is also an experienced coach. We knew what they are capable of.”
Almost dropping a set against the España squad, according to Almadro, could have been due to the limited scouting report they had prior to the matchup.
“We didn’t have much scouting report on them,” he said. “We watched UST during the Unigames last year but they used somewhat a different lineup back then.”
Asked about Ateneo’s toughest contender this season, the two-time UAAP champion coach begged off, saying it’s too early to be making predictions.
“It’s tough to tell who the team to beat is. It’s a new year and a new tournament. Every team is a team to beat,” he closed.