REIGNING MVP Josh Ybañez exploded for a career-high 33 points, but the UST Golden Spikers fell to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 26-28, 15-9, to open their UAAP Season 86 men’s volleyball tournament second-round campaign at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, March 20.

Ybañez’s performance marked the highest scoring output by a Golden Spiker since Mark Alfafara scored 37 in February 2015. 

However, Ateneo stole the spotlight by securing the win, matching UST’s 4-4 record and completing a sweep of the season series against the Golden Spikers.

With Ateneo leading two sets to one, the Golden Spikers forced a decider courtesy of Dux Yambao and Paul Colinares kills, 28-26.

In the final frame, Ateneo maintained a two-point gap, 9-7, before blasting away with a game-sealing 6-2 run to secure the victory.

With UST leading by seven in the first frame, 21-14, the Blue Eagles went on a 8-3 run to inch closer, but Josh Ybañez closed the door with a smart drop to give UST the early advantage.

The Blue Eagles retaliated in the second salvo with a 26-24 win

In the third set, UST managed to reduce their errors, conceding only six points. However, Ateneo had the upper hand in offense with 17 attack points which proved to be enough for them to secure a 25-23 set victory.

Aside from his offensive outburst, Ybañez also had 10 excellent digs and 13 excellent receptions. 

Gboy de Vega, who was benched in the third frame, tallied a double-double performance with 18 points and 17 excellent receptions, while Colinares chipped in 10 points. 

Jian Salarzon and Kennedy Batas paced the Blue Eagles with 32 and 25 markers, respectively. 

League-leading libero Lance de Castro (24 excellent digs and 14 excellent receptions) and Amil Pacinio (14 excellent digs and 26 excellent receptions) spearheaded Ateneo’s defense.

The UST Golden Spikers will next face the top-seeded NU Bulldogs at the same venue on March 24, Sunday, at 12 noon.