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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ateneo Men's Volleyball Match #16 Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings
by rick olivares
Ateneo vs. UST Final Four
19-25, 23-25, 20-25

February 21, 2009
The Arena
You have to wonder what was going through Timmy Sto. Tomas' mind in those last few minutes of the third set during Ateneo's Final Four match-up with UST.

A 21-13, it looked to be all over. The Blue Spikers lost the first two sets 19-25 and 23-25 and each time they came close to snatching a set or even drawing level but unforced errors and mis-receives told heavy on them. That One Big Fight was evident in the first two sets as they battled back from what had the makings of a blowout yet still they fell short.

The second set in particular nearly knocked the fight out in the early goings of the third set, but Sto. Tomas would have none of it.

And 21-13, he yelled out at his team: "Let's go!"

Sto. Tomas received a sharp serve that went to setter Ed Ortega who dropped it in on an unsuspecting Tigers team 21-14.

On the receiving end, UST's Reno Roque found an empty space in front of Sto. Tomas to inch closer to the first Finals seat 22-14. The graduating Atenean pulled himself up and smiled.

JR Intal, who has risen to the occasion in the big games, hammered down his patented dunk shots this one to the backline that fell right in front of UST Captain Rey Dimaculangan 23-15.

After a check ball off Xavier Señoren to make it 24-15, Ateneo rattled off five straight point to force UST to call time. The Blue Spikers' captain AJ Pareja had been shuttling back and forth in the game to get a moment's valuable rest. He was downed by a bad case of food poisoning the night of the loss to UP (for the third and fourth seeding) yet he found a reservoir of energy and courage to help his team's cause. His trademark power spike had punctured the UST defense to make a game of it 20-24.

But on the next play, UST returned the favor, this time in front of Timmy Sto. Tomas to give them the win.

The team immediately swarmed around their former captain.

As the victorious España team sang their alma mater, Sto. Tomas raised his hand too to join in. After all, he did go there for his early school years before transferring to Loyola Heights on his own volition for college (even if he was asked to play for their Seniors Volleyball Team).

It was ironic. Maybe a little bittersweet that after five playing years, he had played a huge role in getting the once downtrodden Ateneo Men's Volleyball Team to be a power only to have its gallant run cut short by the school he spurned.

At the end, it was a love fest unlike the game against UP where the Maroons taunted and talked trash every step of the way. The UST coaches gave their "wayward" son a warm hug.

Inside the dugout, there were none of the tears that flowed freely after the UP game. There were smiles and speeches of hope and gratitude.

All season long, Head Coach Oliver Almadro spoke of enjoying the journey and not the destination. Making it to their dream destination would have been fine -- mighty fine -- but not everyone gets there so it was important to cherish and enjoy it for it isn't every year that Ateneo books a semis seat.

At least not yet. "Pagpatuloy natin ang sinimulan natin," challenged Almadro. "Ang sinimula nila Timmy at AJ. At kayo (the remaining players) ang makakapaggawa nito."

Ateneo had lost all nine sets it played against UST. The second loss was the only walk in the park for the title favorites whose third win over the blue and white gave them a spotless 15-0 for Season 71. But as in many cases in sports, the numbers do not begin to tell the whole story.

The Blue Spikers came and conquered. They had beaten every team save for UST. Now everyone prepared for them and did not take them lightly.

In a disappointing second semester for Ateneo sports, the spotlight shone brightly on them and the Men's Baseball Team whose stirring run gave them its best ever finish in UAAP play at third that was also a masterstroke for its first year coach Emer Barandoc.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," pronounced Almadro who also coached his first men's team ever and if you had seen the games even on TV would have noted that he is the only mentor during timeouts who diagrams plays and helpful tips while others recite a litany of their players' mistakes.

In the dugout after the game, the team emerged like they were the winning team. They posed for pictures and laughed. And that night, they had a team dinner at Saisaki (in EDSA that was sponsored by the Señorens). During the dinner, the team and its family and friends reminisced the past season. They watched tape of the game against UP and re-lived Sto. Tomas' facial to an opponent.

What a way to go out.

For Timmy Sto. Tomas.

And Rey Africa.

photos taken by mike de joya

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