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La Salle completes comeback for fourth straight title

After sweeping the elimination round once more, the defending UAAP women’s table tennis champions De La Salle University looked formidable.

That changed in the Finals, as the University of Santo Tomas took the first team tie.

Nonetheless, with championship experience and a huge source of inspiration, the Lady Paddlers turned back a deficit and downed the University of Santo Tomas Lady Paddlers, 2-1, in the Finals, to clinch their fourth consecutive title, Monday evening at the University of the Philippines Gym in Diliman.

Taking their momentum from Saturday’s semifinals win against FEU, the España-based squad stunned La Salle in the morning’s first duel.

The two squads split the first four matches, before UST’s Kate Encarnacion pulled the rug from national team player Jamaica Sy in a marathon five-setter at 11-13, 12-10, 3-11, 11-7, 13-11.

The senior La Sallian Sy felt she had let her guard down, but quickly accepted the loss.

“Siguro hindi para sa ‘min yung first. Tinanggap namin yun whole-heartedly and we regrouped,” she reflected.

The result was a more convincing 3-1 victory in the second tie for the reigning queens.

Last year’s Most Valuable Player Emy Rose Dael and Rookie of the Year Chantal Alberto provided the 2-0 lead for the Green and White. Team captain Ina Co then forced the do-or-did tie after downing Encarnacion at 8-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7.

With little time to recover, La Salle and UST took to the table one last time for all the marbles.

Alberto and Dael once more took the first two singles matches for La Salle. The sophomore blasted Millana at 11-9, 11-9, 11-1, before the junior dumped Encarnacion with 11-8, 11-3, 11-9.

Rachel Parba and Kat Tempiatura rescued the Tomasina’s title hopes and took down Kimberly Lumenda and Mardeline Carreon in the lone doubles match. They took one for UST at 11-3, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5.

Quite fittingly, however, it was the graduating Sy who took the table for La Salle in the third singles match. The fifth-year stalwart knew it would not be easy to get past an unfamiliar opponent in Kathleen Tempiatura.

“Siya yung isa sa pinag-prepare-an ko kasi sa buong UAAP ko, hindi ko siya nakalaban. We all know that ‘pag UAAP iba yung situation, iba yung confidence ng bawat players, iba yung preparation,” the skipper added.

Nonetheless, taking inspiration from Olympian and La Salle Great Yan Lariba, Sy poured in all her heart and pulled through in that singles match. Kathleen Tempiatura showed some measure of resistance, but Sy was relentless and bagged the match at 11-7, 11-8, 11-4.

Sy and the Lady Archers formally sealed a dynasty with their fifth crown in six years.

The 2017 Southeast Asian Games participant shared that it was through learning that they were able to accomplish the feat.

“Sobrang laking help nung natalo kami nung first year kami kahit sweep kami,” she said, referring to a loss to UP four years ago. “Sa loob-loob namin, ayaw na naming mangyari yung ganung situation. Ayaw kong maranasan ng teammates ko yung umiyak after whole year of training.”

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