|Bryan Bagunas and the rest of the National U Bulldogs made short work of rivals Ateneo to take a 1-0 lead in the men's volleyball finals. (Denver Lachica/ File Photo)|
By Ricky Manliguis
QUEZON CITY—National University pounced on Ateneo right from the start for a 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 Game 1 win in the men’s volleyball finals of the UAAP Season 80 Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Bryan Bagunas got ample help from his teammates, while its defense extinguished the fiery Ateneo offensive led by Marck Espejo all game long enough to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 affair, the Sampaloc-based school's first finals win since Season 76.
Bagunas finished with a game-high 19 points, 16 coming from attacks, James Natividad added 17, and Madz Gampong 11 on five blocks for NU, which also got 24 excellent sets from setter Kim Dayandante.
Libero Ricky Marcos was the anchor of the floor defense with 11 digs to his name.
"Nagkataon lang kasi talaga na 'yung serve namin, talagang kumarga. Hindi sila naka-receive, tapos alam namin kung sino ba-block-in eh. Kasi every time na nag-misreceive sila, alam namin kung sino hahanapin ng setter," NU coach Dante Alinsunurin said after the match.
NU got a plus 11 advantage in attacks (47-36), while blocking 13 Ateneo attempts compared to its rival's seven.
Espejo got only 16 points, all coming from attacks, a far cry from his 46 points-per-game average in the Final four opposite Far Eastern U. Ron Medalla was the only other Blue Eagle in double-figures with 11.
NU is now a win away from snatching its first title after three years, and they will try to go for the jugular in Game 2 slated Wednesday still at the Big Dome.