Foiled in its sweep bid, National University took the V-League Men’s Collegiate Challenge crown just the same, holding off UST, 25-23, 25-23, 25-21, in their do-or-die clash at the Paco Arena last night.
The Bulldogs nearly blew a huge 16-6 lead in the third as the Tiger Spikers fought back to threaten within three, 20-23, behind Josh Ybañez, Gboy De Vega, Edlyn Colinares, and Charles Magpayo.
Kennry Malinis, however, scored on a hit to put NU at championship point but Nico Almendras served into the net, giving UST a crack at extending the match.
But Malinis broke free in a combination play, lifting the Bulldogs to victory, their second straight championship after beating the Cignal HD Spikers in the recent Spikers Turf.
“Itong do-or-die namin nakita ko talaga na gusto ng bata na magchampion, hindi tulad nu’ng Game Two medyo nag-relax kami, nakampante kami sa ginagawa namin,” said NU head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who also credited the organizing Sports Vision for putting up the tournament in the runup to the collegiate volley wars.
“Sobrang laking tulong ito. First day pa lang ng tournament thankful na ako sa Sports Vision na ginagawa nila ito, na lahat gagawin nila para ‘yung men’s division ay umangat,” added Alinsunurin.
UST actually led by two late in the second frame, but back-to-back errors enabled NU to tie the count at 22 before Obed Mukaba shoved them on top on a drop shot.
De Vega countered to draw level again but Mukaba did what he does best, controlling the middle, his back-to-back blocks giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 set cushion.
Mukaba came through with 14 points on eight attacks, five blocks and an ace, while Almendras, the tournament MVP, and Malinis punched in 12 points each. Almendras also finished 21 excellent receptions and six digs.
Ybañez led the Tiger Spikers with 15 points and 12 receptions while De Vega had 14 points and 18 receptions.
NU took Game One and the Bulldogs were on course to completing a tournament sweep after winning the first two sets in Game Two. But the Tiger Spikers struck back and went on to pull a 21-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-12 squeaker to force the sudden death.