Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ateneo Men's Volleyball: Match 5 Tiger Trap

Tiger Trap
Ateneo vs. UST
13-25, 27-29, 15-25
by rick olivares

For sure, playing the UST Men’s Volleyball Team was an acid test for the Ateneo. The team from España, the defending UAAP champions, is said to be taller, faster, stronger, and more experienced. And if the ball were a living thing, it would sue UST for battery, assault, and maybe attempted homicide after the way the Tigers would spike the ball.

Such is their overwhelming superiority that some game observers decreed the game to UST even before game day.

If that is so, the game was sure to test Ateneo’s resolve in the face of such odds.

And after the first set, it seemed that the self-styled experts were right as the Tigers raced to a 7-1 lead highlighted by a back-to-back blocks by Remy Balse and JP Torres on Timmy Sto. Tomas.

In a game that was eerily similar to the match versus La Salle, the Blue Spikers seemed more intent on stopping UST than following their game plan. “Medyo tentative yung mga bata,” noted Oliver Almadro, the Ateneo Coach.

JR Intal, the team’s surprise package this year also found his shots smothered by UST’s defense on the net. Even AJ Pareja’s smashes were successfully defended by the digging of the backline. Said UST Coach Emil Lontoc after the game, “If you play Ateneo with single coverage sa net, they will score. Kaya ginawa namin is to make sure na lagging nakapayong yung mga pumupuntos sa kanila.

The first set ended with a 25-13 thumping.

“Kailangan maging aggressive tayo,” urged Almadro.

With Duane Teves checked perfectly well by UST’s defense, it was up to the veterans Sto. Tomas, Pareja, and Ed Ortega to show the defending champs that they were no pushovers.

And much like the game versus La Salle, Ateneo came back strong in the second set as the Blue Spikers overcame an early deficit to lead to 15-14 after Sto. Tomas sent the ball towards Henry James Pecaña for a check out.

At this point, Ortega, the team’s starting setter scored on a pair of consecutive tips and a block and gave the team more confidence.

With Teves and Intal finding their scoring touch, Ateneo found itself on the cusp of evening up the match at a set a piece 24-21.

Only they never got the set point as Teves misplaced a hit and Xavier Señoren got blocked as UST tied it at 24. A race to a two point cushion ensued.

After it seemed that Ateneo scored a crucial point that would given them a 28-27 lead, the table officials momentarily stopped the match. It seemed that UST had committed a violation in the order of their servers. Almadro and Ateneo UAO Director Ricky Palou angrily debated the point that Ateneo should not be penalized by having the point taken away since the error was noticed after the Blue Spikers had scored.

However the table officials upheld their position and a repeat of the play was announced.

UST made good on their second chance as they held on for a pulsating 29-27 second set win.

The controversial call changed the complexion of the match as Ateneo lost steam in the third set as they fell 25-15.

“I’m not saying we could have won,” cried out an angry Almadro after the game. “But it did prove that we could win a set from them (UST). It could have even gone on to a fifth set. Who knows? Sayang.”

But the first-year Ateneo mentor also noted that the team failed to capitalize on their three-point lead in the second set that could have avoided the complications of a controversial call.

“Yeah, I feel bad about that,” said Pareja. “We worked so hard to fight back. But at least we’re in second place and that’s not so bad. We’ll just learn from this and come back better when the tournament continues next year.”

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