Defense did the trick for Ateneo in Game 1, says Almadro

With great power from the opposition comes great responsibility in defense for Ateneo. 

Those were coach Oliver Almadro’s words of wisdom as the Blue Spikers inched closer to a back-to-back after dismantling NU, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-17, in Game 1 of their UAAP Season 78 men’s volleyball finals Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Unang una, NU talagang they will exert their energy for power, doon talaga sila kilala so sabi ko sa mga players ko we have to start on defense,” he explained, visibly pleased on his wards’ display of championship mettle.

“Talagang kailangan naming tapatan yung power nila, kapag di namin natapatan yung power nila, kakainin nila kami,” he added, noting it was a hard-fought game for the Katipunan spikers. “We really doubled and tripled our effort in defense up to the last set.”

After a slow start, Ateneo quickly regrouped and unleashed a brilliant net defense coupled with their usual offensive firepower led by star spiker Marck Espejo to complete the turnaround and silence the loud Bulldogs squad.

Treated by his coach as “God’s gift to Ateneo,” Espejo exploded for 21 points off 18 kills, 2 blocks and an ace while Rex Intal collected 13 points spiked by 11 kills and 2 blocks.

With the win, the Blue Spikers continued their mastery over the young Sampaloc spikers, but Almadro insisted doing the feat is not a walk in the park.

“Hindi easy yon, kasi lahat naman nagdedeliver sa kanila. Kailangan talagang magdouble effort sa defense,” he shared. “Kailangan talaga magbasa, di kami pwedeng mag-guess. We have to anticipate everything so yun ang pinakaimportante sa lahat.”

Now with the chance to finish the Bulldogs on Wednesday and bag their second consecutive title, Almadro only sees a tougher road ahead to men’s volleyball glory.

“Mas mahirap ang preparation, para mapantayan namin yung energy ng NU, kailangan doblehin pa yung effort ngayon, kailangan ang teamwork,” he said. — By Jason Mercene