For three years, the De La Salle University Lady Green Paddlers have been dominant, winning one tie after another, until the very first tie of the UAAP LXXIX women’s table tennis finals happened.
The University of Santo Tomas Lady Tiger Paddlers pulled off what no team has done during that span, sending the defending back-to-back champions to the brink of losing the crown with the win in Tie 1.
Nonetheless, Jamaica Sy and the rest of reigning queens were able to pull it off as they remained defiant when it mattered, eventually completed the come-from-behind win in the series and reasserted their claim to the throne, Wednesday, at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.
Tigresses stun Lady Archers, take Tie 1
Riding on the momentum of winning three ties in a row, the challengers UST shocked their opponents with a thrilling 3-2 win in Tie 1 of the Finals.
Kate Encarnacion commenced the upset with a grueling five-set decision over DLSU team captain Jamaica Sy in the first singles match. The Tomasina upstart took the first game at 11-5, before Sy clinched the next two at 11-8 and 11-3. With her calm and composed approach of the game, Encarnacion eventually completed her comeback to steal the match at 11-9, 12-10.
The reigning champions then threatened to take the win after Emy Rose Dael and doubles partner Ina Co and Mardeline Carreon took care of Katrina Tempiatura and the pair of Rachel Parba and Rizza Darlucio, respectively.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Dael also took a marathon match of five sets and won over Tempiatura, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-5, 11-3. The La Salle duo then dominated the opposing pair in straight sets, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7.
Nonetheless, UST had other plans with their two best singles players still on deck to play.
Danica Alburo dominated newbie Chantal Alberto in three sets 11-9, 11-8, 11-4, to level the match. Nacasabog then finished of the come-from-behind win with a stunning win over graduating Donna Gamila, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9.
The win put UST on the verge of ending the 13-year title drought, but La Salle stopped them on their tracks.
La Salle returns with a sweep, forces do-or-die tie
The defending champions La Salle regrouped and refocused after the stunning loss.
Skipper Sy shared, “Medyo naging blanko kami, pero I immediately told my teammates na, ‘This is a learning lesson. We’ve been through this; we’ve been through so many trials and all, konting kapit lang and push lang.’”
“We’re undefeated for a reason and that built us,” she added.
And the response was overwhelming.
It took just four players for the Lady Green Paddlers to take Tie 2 and even the series.
Dael started the sweep with another rout of Tempiatura, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 in the first singles match. Sy then walked the talk in the second singles match after she outlasted Encarnacion in yet another five-setter, 10-12, 14-12, 2-11, 11-6, 11-7.
Co and Carreon then repeated against Parba and Darlucio with three similar sets of 11-8, sending the series to a winner-take-all tie.
Alberto averts upset, gives DLSU the three-peat
When everything is on the line, champions rise to the challenge.
Dael and Sy started the deciding tie with rousing victories in the first two singles matches.
The UAAP 78 Rookie of the Year shook off a close second-set loss to upend Darlucio at 11-2, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6. Dael had total control of the match from the get-go, but some errors, especially in that second frame, gave the opponent some lifeline. Nevertheless, the leads were too huge to overcome.
Sy then took care of Alburo in the second singles match. The DLSU captain zapped the energy of the second-year player from España after winning in four sets, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11. The Lady Green Paddler threatened to end the match early in the fourth, before fending off the resilient Alburo to take the win.
UST then attempted to steal the tie and the title after winning the next two matches.
Encarnacion, who evidently saved her best table tennis for the series stunned another seasoned singles player in Donna Gamila to send the series into a deciding singles match.
The usual doubles tandem for UST in Parba and Tempiatura set the stage for Encarnacion’s heroics with a dominant win against Co and Carreon. The DLSU tandem kept the third set close, but the Tomasinas eventually prevailed with the sweep at 11-8, 11-8, 13-11.
Gamila, playing in her last UAAP match, almost gave the title to DLSU after getting two sets of the third singles match. After Encarnacion took the first set at 11-6, Gamila outlasted the former in the next two close sets at 12-10 and 13-11.
The graduating DLSU stalwart led at the start of the fourth set, but Encarnacion stormed back to get the frame and the next one in both 11-6 score lines. That left Alberto and Nacasabog to dispute the title in the fourth singles match.
Alberto cruised past the first set with a huge 11-2 win, but Nacasabog turned it up on defense in the next two frames.
With confidence building up, the UST paddler dominated the DLSU rookie 11-4 and 11-6 in the second and the third sets, respectively. However, she gassed out and Alberto sent the series into an ultimate decider in a fifth set with an 11-3 victory.
The two paddlers fought toe-to-toe in the final set as Alberto took the 5-4 lead at the change of ends. Nacasabog then regrouped and got to within three points of the title at 8-6. The DLSU rookie then stormed back to claim her first match point at 10-9, but Nacasabog hit a perfectly-timed smash to force deuce.
Nonetheless, Alberto let her defense dictate the pace, forcing Nacasabog to attack. One error and another one from the Tomasina sent her to tears as her opponent and the rest of La Salle celebrated their third straight UAAP title.
Lady Green Paddlers’ skipper Sy was elated of how they defended their title. She said, “Sobrang nakaka-overwhelm kasi kung nakita niyo, sobrang dikit talaga yung laban. Everybody deserved this championship, it’s just that mas naging lucky kami all throughout the [season].”
She also attributed the win to the support of everyone from the DLSU community. Sy continued, “We’ve been blessed. Sa mga games namin, nandyan yung mga alumni, nandyan yung coaches namin and all.”
Sy and the rest of the championship team dedicated this third straight title to their graduating senior Gamila, and alumna and Olympian Ian Lariba, who was present throughout the journey.