National University survived University of Santo Tomas in a Game 1 thriller of the best-of-three UAAP Season 85 finals, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 29-31, 15-11, to move on the cusp of its third straight UAAP Men’s Volleyball championship, Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs also stretched their winning streak to 33 games, dating back to their second game in Season 81.
NU will look to close the series out and annex its fifth title overall on Sunday, 2 p.m., at the same Pasay venue.
“Medyo lumamang kami nu’ng bandang huli although ‘yung ibang sets nagiging problema namin ‘yung opensa namin. Buti na lang medyo may unforced errors sila na nakakahabol kami. Sana mag tuluy-tuloy pa at sa Sunday makuha na namin,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Dante Alinsunurin after the two-hour 50-minute match.
The Golden Spikers were still ahead 9-8 in the fifth when they shot themselves on the foot with four consecutive errors out of their 40 total miscues to give NU the 12-9 lead.
UST inched within one at 12-11, before rookie Michaelo Buddin went crosscourt, Clarenz Belostrino made a service ace, and Nico Almendras capped the win with a solo block on Jayrack Dela Noche, 15-11.
The Golden Spikers extended the match with three straight points to end the third frame, 25-21, on Josh Ybañez’s push before NU’s Almendras and Ken Malinis committed back-to-back errors.
UST then fought back from 19-14 down and steadied down the stretch, pulling all the stops before Gboy de Vega unleashed a crosscourt kill then Buddin’s attack went out to force a deciding set, 31-29.
Buddin starred in his first finals appearance with 26 points and 26 excellent receptions, while Almendras provided 20 points and seven digs.
Ken Malinis added 11 points while Joshua Retamar, who played through after an injury scare in the fifth frame after colliding knees with Ybañez, tossed 25 excellent sets to go with five points.
Golden Spikers’ rookie Ybañez had a game-high 28 points along with 12 digs, while De Vega chimed in 19 points and 13 excellent receptions.
UST libero Van Tracy Prudenciado also delivered 27 receptions and 11 digs.
Games on Sunday (SM Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – UST vs NU (Men Finals)
4 p.m. – NU vs DLSU (Women Finals)