Second straight silver: UST Golden Spikers fall to NU Bulldogs in finals

Photo by Ryla Tuazon/THE FLAME

THERE WILL be no fairy tale ending for the UST Golden Spikers as it bowed to four-time defending champions NU Bulldogs in a four-set battle, 21-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-25, in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball finals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.

The defeat marks the Golden Spikers’ second consecutive runner-up finish and another failed bid to bring the championship crown back to España.

It also dashed hopes that the first-ever fourth seed to enter the finals would dethrone the reigning champion in a dramatic fashion.

The first set unfolded with UST overcoming an early deficit to tie the score at 18-all. However, the Bulldogs managed to find their rhythm at the crucial moment, pulling away for a 25-21 set win.

In the second salvo, the Golden Spikers capitalized on NU’s service errors and defensive miscues. Season MVP Josh

Ybañez and Gboy de Vega continued to lead the charge, securing a 25-22 victory and evening the game at 1-1.

However, UST’s momentum was short-lived as the Bustillos-based squad tightened up its defense and unleashed a relentless offensive attack in the third and fourth sets.

De Vega tried to stage a comeback in the third frame with an off-the-block hit and a crosscourt kill early on, but NU’s Buds Buddin ignited an 8-0 run with a back-row attack, putting the Bulldogs in control, 19-8. De Vega temporarily halted the surge with a kill, but NU ultimately sealed the set win, 25-17.

The Golden Spikers started strong in the fourth set, with de Vega and NU stalwart Nico Almendras trading points. De Vega continued to shine with back-to-back scores, but Buddin responded with a three-point streak of his own, 22-12.

Even with UST’s efforts, Almendras delivered the championship point for NU, giving his team a 25-15 victory.

Despite the loss, the Golden Spikers continued to have a positive outlook, citing the dedication they poured into their training regimen and their coach’s strategies.

“We just believed in the program that our coaches gave us. We just followed their instructions. It worked (in the second set), but we fell short,” De Vega said in an interview with The Flame.

Finals MVP Joshua Retamar said his team struggled to keep up with UST’s defense, especially in the second set.

“UST was able to secure the second set. They also did tactical service and we use the same system. We noticed that our weaknesses are also their weaknesses so we focused on that,” Retamar told The Flame.

UST’s offense was led by a pair of double-digit scorers. Ybañez contributed 24 markers, while de Vega added 15.

NU boasted a more balanced attack with three players reaching the double-digit mark: Buddin (28 points), Leo Aringo (22 points) and Almendras (20 points).

The UST Golden Spikers made history when it earned its finals ticket by ousting the top-seed FEU Tamaraws.

The defeat extended UST’s silver medal streak in the UAAP to two consecutive seasons, while NU claimed its sixth championship title. F

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