Blue Eagles hand Golden Spikers third straight loss

Photo by Daniela Thricia Anne Elgarico/ THE FLAME

THE UST Golden Spikers sustained their third straight setback after suffering a heart-wrenching loss against the Ateneo Blue Eagles in five sets, 25-15, 30-32, 25-20, 20-25, 15-17, in the UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, March 9.

UST, looking to rebound from previous losses to FEU and DLSU, fell to a 2-3 blitz, while Ateneo improved to 3-2.

The Golden Spikers dominated the first set as open hitter Gboy de Vega’s powerful pipes and Rookie-MVP Josh Ybañez’s offense propelled them to a commanding 21-12 lead. Middle blocker Paul Colinares ended the set with a quick attack, 25-15.

The tide turned dramatically in the second frame after Ateneo wingers Amil Pacinio and Jetlee Gopio sparked a run with their attacks and established their 8-5 lead.

Open hitter Jian Salarzon maintained the Blue Eagles’ momentum with a backrow hit, 11-6. UST clawed their way back, cutting the lead to 13-12. However, Ateneo’s Kennedy Batas was unstoppable in penetrating UST’s blocks, extending the set to a thrilling 30-all deadlock.

Unforced errors by UST ultimately allowed Ateneo to steal the second set, 32-30.

Unfazed by the setback, Ybañez spearheaded UST’s third-set comeback with crosscourt attacks and a block. Capitalizing on the Blue Eagles’s six errors, the España-based squad clinched the set, 25-20.

Facing a 2-1 deficit, Ateneo leaned on Salarzon and Batas’ offensive firepower to force a decider, winning the fourth set and forcing a fifth set, 25-20.

Both teams battled fiercely point-for-point in the final set, but Ateneo took advantage of UST’s overpass, with Batas and Salarzon delivering the final blows to secure a dramatic 17-15 victory for the Blue Eagles.

Despite the defeat, Ybañez said the Golden Spikers are bent on improving their grit and preparations to snap their losing streak.

“We have a lot to prepare. We have to strengthen our fundamentals. We need to go back to the basics of all the departments of volleyball – spiking, digging and receiving,” he told The Flame.

Ybañez led UST with 31 points, including 29 attacks and two blocks. Colinares, who manned the team’s defense, chipped in 18 markers.

Ateneo boasted four double-digit players, with Salarzon leading the Blue Eagles with 22 points. Batas had 18, while Pacinio and Gopio contributed 17 points each.

The UST Golden Spikers look to end their slump against the UP Fighting Maroons on Wednesday, March 13, at the same venue. F – M. N. Z. Serrano and A. D. Zoleta

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