The young National University taekwondo program, a team that started just four years ago, did not take that long to dominate the UAAP.
The NU Lady Bulldogs were on a class of their own, sweeping the UAAP Season 79 Women’s Taekwondo championship for the school’s first-ever taekwondo tiara last Tuesday, October 25 at the Blue Eagle Gym in Quezon City.
“Actually deserve nila ito. Kahit nine months preparation lang ginawa namin, yung mind-setting ng mga players ko sa championship talaga,” said first year NU head coach Jeff Figueroa, who led the UE Lady Warriors to a championship a season ago.
The Lady Bulldogs, a team that failed to win a single series a season ago, went into Day 3 with an immaculate 3-0 slate, including a stunning win over the UST Tigress Jins 5-2 last Sunday. The team then swept its last three series that saw them blast the UP Lady Maroons, 5-2, and the DLSU Lady Green Jins, 6-0, to cap their campaign.
National University were led by the troika of flyweight Grace Garfin, featherweight Rhezie Aragon, and MVP lightweight Shiryl Badol. Garfin sported a 5-1 record in the tournament while Aragon and Badol ended their tournament with 6-0 slates.
According to head coach Figueroa, the team only had nine months to train but had no problems with the transition.
“Malaking adjustment dahil una, hindi ako gumawa ng pundasyon nila tapos yung morale nila down dahil dati last placer sila. Pero hindi sila mahirap maging estudyante dahil naniniwala sila sa mga sinasabi ko at alam ko pareho kami ng pangarap,” the multi-titled mentor shared. “Sumama naman sila. So, sa akin, naging madali at naging mahaba pa yung nine months. Nagsisimula pa lang kami, next year ulit at sa mga iba pang tournament.”
Badol was situated in the ultra-deep lightweight division that included former MVP Abigail Cham of UST and Asian Taekwondo gold medalist Pauline Lopez of Ateneo. She was able to leave the division unscathed en route to the MVP. On the other hand, Lopez won the Rookie of the Year plum with a 5-1 record.
The UST Tigresses finished second for the third straight year while the Ateneo Lady Eagles finished in the podium for the first time in 19 years, placing third.