Maroon Spikers stumble vs UE, drop second game of S82

After an extended fourth set, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons failed to mount a late-game run against the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors as they drop their second match of the season, 11-25, 25-23, 20-25, 26-28, in the UAAP Season 82 men’s volleyball tournament today at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.   

Rookie John Lomibao scored a team-high 18 points off 15 kills and three blocks, while Louis Gamban registered his first triple-double performance in the collegiate level with 11 points, 10 excellent digs and 14 excellent reception in a losing effort. 

The middle play did the wonders for the Red Warriors as they zoomed out on the Maroons early on the first set, 0-8, before middle blocker Dan Nicolas registered UP’s first point of the match via a quick hit, 1-8. 

The Recto-based squad continued to punish the defense of the Maroon Spikers as they took control of the game to end with UP trailing for as much as 14 points, 11-25. 

State U can’t seem to cool the hot-scoring middle attacks of the Red Spikers to open the second set in an 8-15 deficit, but UP mounted a mid-set 13-3 run to take the lead, 21-18. 

UE’s Lloyd Josafat, who exploded with career-high 32 points, continued to penetrate UP’s defense and knot the game at 23 all, but Gamban spiced things up to send UP at set point, with Josh Castillo shutting down UE, 25-23.

With one set apiece, a neck-and-neck battle ensued come third frame with both teams exchanging fiery offense from all corners, but the 10 costly errors of the Maroons gave UE a space to enjoy a 2-1 lead, 20-25.

No squad wanted to rest early as they fought nip and tuck and extended the fourth set at 26 all, but a middle attack and a block from the Red Warriors sent UP back to the losing column, 26-28.   

Despite opening the season on a high note, the second-game loss should only strengthen the mental and physical toughness of the Maroon Spikers, according to Head Coach Rald Ricafort.   

“‘Pag hindi kami doon sa mataas na level nag-start, lalo na sa mental part, talagang kukulangin. Ngayon sinimulan nilang medyo mababa, hindi talaga kami magiging katulad sa first game namin so sana maging lesson samin na magsimula na mentally and physically mataas,” he said.

With the UE game revealing the holes in the net and floor defense of the Diliman-based squad, the Maroon Spikers are left with no choice but to go back to the basics and polish their guards. 

“Yung UE talagang namaximize lang talaga nila [yung middle]. So yung mga pagkukulang namin lalo na sa blocking, pag-aaralan ulit para sa La Salle game. Para kahit gawin nilang puro middle, macounter namin,” Ricafort added.

The Maroon Spikers will look to bounce back as they go head to head against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Spikers on Tuesday, 2 p.m., at PhilSports Arena.

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