UP still in a rut, gets outclassed by surging Ateneo

The UP Fighting Maroons remained in the losing column as they failed to solve the Ateneo De Manila University riddle during their second-round matchup of the UAAP Season 86 Collegiate Volleyball Tournaments last March 24 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. 

The maroon squads head into a week-long break still at the bottom of their respective standings. 

Pushing limits

The UP Men’s Volleyball Team (UP MVT) dragged the Ateneo Blue Eagles into the distance before eventually collapsing in a five-set marathon, 15-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-20, 10-15.

The defeat adds to the misery of the Fighting Maroons, who are now on a 13-game slump dating back to Season 85. 

Despite suffering another setback, State U showed significant improvement compared to their first-round encounter against Ateneo, where they lost in straight sets.

Down two sets to one, UP found a lifeline after winning the crucial fourth frame, courtesy of Daniel Nicolas’ block against Ateneo’s Jian Salarzon.

UP struggled to sustain their momentum, trailing early in the decider, 2-7, before Jaivee Malabanan stopped the bleeding with a cross-court hit.

Jaivee Malabanan attempts to hit the ball over the Ateneo blockers. Photo by Patricia Fontilar

It was virtually all-Ateneo in the next sequences as Ken Batas scored three clutch points, including the game-winning hit, to avert the maroon shirts’ upset bid.

Leading the Maroons’ valiant efforts were Malabanan, who delivered a breakout performance with 19 points, and Louis Gamban who produced 17 markers.

The diagonal duo also guarded the floor, combining for 45 of the team’s 56 excellent receptions. 

Meanwhile, Batas collected a whopping 30 points to propel Ateneo to its fifth win of the season.

Swept once again

The UP Women’s Volleyball Team (UP WVT) played its worst game yet of the season against an inspired Ateneo Lady Eagles side, 14-25, 20-25, 15-25.

It was a bittersweet return for ace player Niña Ytang, who sat out the Maroons’ last three games following the passing of her mother.

“Natutuwa po ako na nakabalik ako. Although may nangyaring hindi maganda, focus lang ako sa positive. Move on lang,” Ytang said in the post-game interview.

The reigning Best Middle Blocker picked up where she left off, scoring three of the team’s four rejections for a total of 5 points. 

Her efforts, however, were not enough to slow down the Lady Eagles, who successfully countered State U’s defense with hard serving and offense.

After two forgettable sets, the maroon shirts regrouped in the third salvo, fielding rookie setter Frances De Guia to change the complexion of the game.

UP went as close as three points at 6-9 after Ateneo’s Sobe Buena sent the ball too wide. 

The Lady Eagles quickly recovered with a scorching 6-0 run, capped by a Geezel Tsunashima attack from the right pin. 

Steph Bustrillo tried to lift UP back into the match with an off-the-block hit at 14-22, but Ateneo never looked back as bench player Anthea Selga sealed the game with a clutch ace.

No Fighting Maroon scored in double-digits as Bustrillo, who averaged 20.5 points in their last two games, only tallied 8.

On the flip side, Tsunashima banged 16 markers to lead the Lady Eagles to their third victory.

The maroon squads will return to court on April 4 against the De La Salle University at the Mall of Asia Arena at 10 a.m. for men’s and 2 p.m. for women’s.