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Blue Eagles force rubber match as Espejo fires league-best 55

Ateneo star Marck Espejo fires one of his league-record 55 points against the FEU defense in this piece of action in the UAAP Season 80 men's volleyball competition. (Franchesca Nicole Collantes/ Dugout Philippines)
By Ricky Manliguis

PASAY CITY—All Marck Espejo did was to keep Ateneo’s season alive. Little did he know that he already made a date with history.

Espejo unloaded a league-record 55 points to power the Blue Eagles to a pulsating 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9 squeaker over Far Eastern University and force a winner-take-all match in the men’s volleyball competitions of the UAAP Season 80 Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The four-time league Most Valuable Player was simply unstoppable in the crucial parts of the match to tow the three-time defending champs from a 1-2 set deficit and enhanced its hopes of a return trip to the finals.

The win was also the Katipunan-based squad’s first against the Tamaraws this season.

Espejo got 47 spikes 11 in the fifth and final set to go along with six blocks and two service aces. He outscored the whole FEU squad on attacks by one point.  

Ismael John Rivera backstopped the Ateneo attack with eight markers, even as Gian Carlo Glorioso had six. In all, the Eagles gave away 34 unforced errors to FEU’s 25.

Polvorosa had a hand in all but one of his team’s 46 excellent sets.

"Marck is a monster," Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro said after the game, “That's what I'm telling my players – you have to make a point when it matters. Fifty-five doesn't matter if you don't make it at the right time. But he made it at the right time."

FEU came within 9-11 in the fifth frame behind JP Bugaoan and Jude Garcia, but Espejo took the game into his hands by scoring the last four points, rejecting a Redijohn Paler attack then capping it off with an off-the-block hit.

"Hindi pa tapos," Almadro later added. "Sabi ko nga, they beat us twice. We will try to beat them twice. Nakakuha na kami ng isa, so we will really work hard, and if we can, triple the effort para mabawi namin ang isa pa."

Bugaoan and Garcia each scored 15 points on a combined 24 hits, while Paler chipped in 12 markers for the Tamaraws, which last made the Finals in Season 75.

The do-or-die match will be on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

Follow him on Twitter: @Teaching_Hero