Bryan Bagunas provided the leadership again and his huge effort yielded 35 points for the National University Bulldogs as they clinched their second straight crown yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6’5” Bagunas knocked in four of the fourth set’s last points to lift the Bulldogs to a 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19 triumph over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
This allowed the Bulldogs to complete a two-game sweep in their 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s volleyball best-of-three finals series.
With the Tams threatening by one, 19-20, Bagunas found a way to score past FEU’s defense and helped NU retain the crown for another year.
During their final scoring run, Bagunas managed to get past Tams’ defender Peter Quiel’s blocks thrice with his kills.
“Masayang masaya ako sa championship namin. Ang performance namin ay umangat nang umangat pagdating sa finals,” said Bulldogs coach Dante Alinsunurin
Bagunas, on his sophomore year with the team, earned at least five awards for spearheading the Bulldogs to their third men’s plum. His awards included the Finals and Season MVP honors, best server, outside spiker and scorer.
Richard Solis tallied 18 points for the Tams, who have gone through 23 championship appearances.
The Tams were seeking their first crown since they last fought for the championship against NU in season 75.
The Bulldogs earlier took Game 1 with a 21–25, 25–23, 25–23, 25–18 win, with Bagunas making 18 points.
Determined to force a deciding Game 3, the Tams took the first set after Solis took charge in defending the frontline, with his blocks on Bagunas and Nico Almendras.
This allowed the Tams to work their way out of a 24-all deadlock.
In the second set, NU shattered a 22-all tie off two attack points from Almendras.
In the third, FEU stayed close, 23-24, behind blocks by Jude Garcia and Quiel on Bagunas.
But, Quiel and Garcia’s blocking error in the next play allowed NU to clinch the match point.
Meanwhile, fierce rivals Ateneo and De La Salle dispute the UAAP Season 81 men’s football championship Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The one-game final is set at 4:30 p.m.
Both teams have met four times in the Finals since 1996, as the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers are level at 2-2.
The most recent showdown was in 2006 at the Philsports pitch, with Ateneo winning 1-0 via Roger Lastimado’s late goal.
Foiled by Far Eastern University in the 2015 final, De La Salle hopes to end a long, 21-year championship drought.
The last time the Archers ruled the league was in 1998, winning the do-or-die match against the Eagles, 5-1, for their fourth title.
Coach Alvin Ocampo hopes that his upstart De La Salle will leave everything on pitch to fulfill what their predecessors have failed to do.
“Like what (former goalkeeper) Patrick Deyto said, ‘They have to shut up coach Alvin because every time we talk about championships, it’s always the 1998 batch that we talk about,’” said Ocampo.
The rookies were instrumental in steering the Archers deep in the tournament.
Xavi Zubiri led De La Salle’s 1-0 win over the Tamaraws in the final elimination matchday, while Jovan Marfiga and Shanden Vergara’s goals gave the Archers a 2-1 victory over University of the Philippines in the semifinal, ending the Fighting Maroons’ reign.
“I think it’s high time we talked about the new batch, the new generation,” said Ocampo, a former national team top defender.
Ateneo ace striker Jarvey Gayoso, Ocampo’s nephew who has 11 goals this season, has high respects on what De La Salle can do in the biggest stage.
“They are a very young team and hopefully, we will rely on our experience being in the Finals,” said Gayoso, who is seeking to power the Eagles to their eighth title.
In the women’s division, De La Salle and FEU, tied for the most number of championships with 10, go for all the marbles at 2 p.m.
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