Both the DLSU Green Paddlers and Lady Paddlers began their respective quests to defend last season’s UAAP Table Tennis Championships in the first round of this year’s tournament last October 8 and 9 at the Blue Eagle Gym in Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.
The Lady Paddlers remain this season’s team to beat as they have yet to suffer a loss in Season 79. For the Green Paddlers, this season is proving to be a tough one, as their young roster faces a more experienced field that has made them work for every point so far in this tournament.
Green Paddlers’ first day struggles
In their opening match against UP, Jeremy Ruiz immediately tried to set the tone for the men as he beat his counterpart, 3-1, in the singles competition. UP, however, was able to respond by winning the next match against DLSU’s Tarak Cabrido. Unfortunately for La Salle, Ralph Nones and the tandem of Nathan Siasico and Ermar Eder were both shutout, 3-0, in the succeeding matches to give UP the victory.
La Salle’s next set of matches against FEU played out almost exactly the same as their earlier loss to the Fighting Maroons. Just like in the morning, Ruiz breezed by his opponent, Villanueva, in the opening match. In the subsequent matches, though, the Green Paddlers again struggled against their opponents. While two of three losses were lost by the slim score of 3-2, Cabrido bowed out, 3-1, against FEU’s De Guzman to give La Salle its second loss of the day.
Ruiz again dominated as he swept Pacana, to begin the team’s final match of the day against UE. The Green Paddlers, however, lost the next two matches and were set up for the same narrative yet again. Daniel Ocon of DLSU was able to win and leave it up to a match between Cabrido and UE’s Cortez to decide the victor. In the end, it was UE’s Cortez who sealed the victory for his team after a five-set match.
Lady Paddlers show dominance on opening day
The Lady Paddlers began their title defense against the FEU Tamaraws. Down 2-1 after three matches, and after a loss in the doubles competition, the pressure was on Chantal Alberto and Donna Gamilla to win their respective singles matches. Both delivered for DLSU, as the team came back to defeat FEU for its opening victory.
Looking to continue their momentum against the UE Lady Warriors, the Lady Paddlers flexed their muscles as they won all three of their matches with decisive 3-0 scores. Emy Dael and Jamaica Sy both swept their respective singles matches while the team of Caressja Bernaldez and Ina Co overpowered UE’s combination of Lacue and Mangubat.
The Lady Paddlers faced AdU to conclude the day. It was déjà vu for the former, as they performed exactly as they did against UE. La Salle won all of its three of their matches with 3-0 scores. Sy and Dael again won their respective matches, while Co and new partner, Kimberly Lumenda, swept AdU’s Chavez and Ricafort.
After the first day, the Lady Paddlers had three wins in as many games.
“Nakikita ko na maganda yung performance ng team. Nakikita ko yung dedication ng bawat isa [sa team] to win their games,” Lady Paddlers team captain Sy said on their performance so far, adding that she hopes this will carry over to their other games.
Green Paddlers bounce back
After a tough opening day, the Green Paddlers started the day strong with three straight wins over ADMU, AdU, and NU. Ruiz easily swept Blue Eagle David Dayao in their singles match. Jojo Matias quickly tied the match at 1-1 after sweeping Eder in the second singles match. The duo of Siasico and Nones bucked an early deficit to take down ADMU’s Kyle Lao and Mikey Lagasca in four games. Cabrido then finished the match by sweeping Paolo Rosete in three quick games.
The Green Paddlers took the first two games from AdU via sweep, but they surrendered the doubles match to AdU’s Balanquit and Enal after getting swept as well. Cabrido was once again tasked to clinch the game for DLSU, but he needed five matches to give La Salle its second consecutive win of the day.
It seemed as if DLSU’s win streak would end at two games after the Bulldogs took the first two singles matches. Ruiz and Siasico could not take a game from their opponents, with the former nearly stealing a game from NU’s Misal. Nones and Eder gave DLSU a fighting chance after grinding it out against the duo of Villamor and Ramirez in five gruelling games. Cabrido swept Carasco in the succeeding match, setting up a winner-take-all affair between Ocon and NU’s Huab. In a game that saw both players change venues multiple times due to the lighting in the venue, tension built up all the way to the final game, which went down to the wire until Ocon pulled away in the end to seal La Salle’s third straight win.
With the momentum gained from the crucial win, DLSU looked to hand UST its first loss this season in their first round finale. Cabrido quickly won the first game of his singles match versus UST’s Ablanque, but the latter responded by taking the next three games to give UST a 1-0 edge. Ruiz would build a 2-1 match lead over UST’s Que, but Que, who was buoyed by an energetic UST crowd, won the next two matches to put UST on the brink of victory. In the end, the Growling Tigers asserted themselves, sweeping the doubles match and ending La Salle’s day with a loss.
Lady Paddlers remain perfect after day two
The Lady Paddlers opened the second day of the tournament by sweeping the ADMU Lady Eagles. Dael, Gamilla, and the duo of Kimberly Lumenda and Co breezed through their opponents in three quick matches. Against NU, DLSU only surrendered one match to the Lady Bulldogs before Sy and the duo of Carreon and Co took down their opponents to seal win number five for the Lady Paddlers.
Against the UST Growling Tigresses, Dael needed four games to give her squad a 1-0 match lead. Gamilla forced a 2-2 tie against UST’s Nacasabog in the second singles match, but she could not close her opponent out, letting the Growling Tigresses tie the match at 1-all. Though Carreon and Co swept the duo of Parba and Kath Tempiatura, Sy was swept in the following match.
The pressure for both teams to close one another out grew as Alberto and Kat Tempiatura played in arguably the best match so far this season. Their matchup went the full five games, with both players trading blows until Alberto slipped past her UST counterpart to keep DLSU’s record unblemished.
Due to unforeseen delays, the Lady Paddlers had to play their first round finale against the UP Lady Maroons in the evening. This, coupled with the effect of their long game against UST, did not affect their play, however, as they did not surrender a single match to the Lady Maroons. Dael once again helped give DLSU a good start as she swept Labian in the opening singles match. Alberto followed suit with a sweep over Capatan, while Carreon and Co handed La Salle the win with their quick victory over the UP’s R. Ching and C. Ching.
“I think we should work on our doubles kasi it’s really a turning point,” Sy said when asked about the things they will work on, adding that the doubles match can set the tone for the entire game.
As of press time the Green Paddlers and Lady Paddlers will both resume action in round two of the UAAP Table Tennis Tournament on October 15 and 16, at 8 am, in the Blue Eagle Gym.