After two years and three lineup transitions, Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad have proved to be National University’s winning combination, taking down defending champs University of Santo Tomas Tiger Spikers’ Kris Roy Guzman and Anthony Arbasto in the UAAP Season 80 Beach Volleyball tournament at the Sands SM by the Bay.
Both squads traded down-to-the-wire wins in the first two matches of the best-of-three series, with UST taking Game One, 22-20, 26-24, and NU picking up Game Two 21-19, 9-21, 15-10.
The rubber match was also a tight affair, with the Bulldogs slamming their foes 21-15 in the first set, only for the partial UST crowd to fire up their tandem in a rousing 21-14 second-frame victory.
The third set fittingly displayed the gritty, back-and-forth rivalry between both squads. The National University seemingly had the game-deciding cushion after grabbing a 9-7 lead. UST, however, rallied back, tying the set at 9 and trading big hit after big hit with the much taller NU side.
It was five-year beach veteran Guzman who delivered his team’s nail in the coffin, swinging straight into the net and giving the Bulldogs a 13-11 lead.
Having lost out on titles both in indoor and beach for the past two years, Bagunas and Natividad finally showed the maturity needed to clinch a title.
Neither gave up an error or made the missteps they had habitually made the past two years. Both squared up, and powered in the last two points of the match.
“Sobrang saya po namin. Talagang inisip lang namin lahat ng sinakripisyo namin para sa championship na ‘to. Binigay namin lahat namin talaga,” said Bagunas, who was named the MVP.
“Nagtiwala lang po talaga kami sa isa’t isa,” said third-year hitter Natividad. “Lahat po ng tao sa paligid namin at tumulong sa amin, grabe po ‘yung pagtitiwala nila. Kaya nagtiwala na lang kaming dalawa sa isa’t isa.”
NU last won the title in Season 77 on the back of veterans Edwin Tolentino and Henry Tipay.
Guzman and Arbasto ended their three-year partnership with a gold and two silvers. Guzman, the uncle in the uncle-nephew duo, capped his five-year beach stint.