DLSU’s Table Tennis Teams remain among the UAAP’s elite teams across any sport. Their recent performances in the UAAP Season 79 Table Tennis Competition, which concluded last Wednesday, October 26, at the Blue Eagle Gym, proved that La Salle’s program keeps them as title contenders, no matter the odds.
The past three seasons have seen the DLSU Lady Paddlers clinch three straight UAAP Table Tennis Championships, each with increasing difficulty amid the sport’s growth and the continually improving field. This season was arguably their toughest campaign yet, as they overcame the loss of Olympian Ian Lariba and edged past a gritty UST squad to clinch the title.
Despite missing out on this season’s championship, the Green Paddlers overcame the toughest of odds with a younger and less experienced lineup, one that saw gradual improvement as the season progressed. Going on a Cinderella run to the finals, the Green Paddlers aimed to go all the way, but were swept by the Growling Tigers in convincing fashion.
Contrasting regular season campaigns
The Lady Paddlers encountered a few bumps in their elimination round campaign this season, an occurrence that has not changed since winning the first of their three titles in Season 76. In their first season without Lariba, La Salle showed the continuity and consistency in their program as the team captain Jamaica Sy, Finals MVP Emy Dael, and the rest of the team dominated the competition.
Though there were sweeps over the likes of UE and AdU in the early rounds, it was their five-game ties versus teams such as finals opponent UST that tested their mettle in Season 79. With their perfect record, the Lady Paddlers advanced to the finals, earning themselves a few days rest before the championship round.
Signs of a rebuilding season were evident in the Green Paddler’s games early on as they failed to register a single win during the competition’s first day. Things only got better for last season’s men’s division champions as they posted three wins the following day, losing only to UST in three quick games.
Unlike their female counterparts, the Green Paddlers suffered close losses to more seasoned lineups, but they had games that also showed their composure as they had quick victories over AdU and ADMU, and a thrilling 3-2 win over NU in one of their longer matches. Once the preliminary games ended, the Green Paddlers saw themselves at the bottom of the stepladder knockout round in sixth place.
Uphill climb to the finals
Despite the rocky run of the Green Paddlers in the regular season, placing sixth did not hinder them from clinching a spot in the finals. Faced with sudden death knockout rounds, the young lineup was on the hot seat and their composure under pressure was put to the test.
The Green Paddlers performed phenomenally in the knockout rounds by winning four straight games against the FEU Tamaraws, UP Fighting Maroons, UE Red Warriors, and NU Bulldogs. Despite battling with fatigue, they were set to face the well-rested NU team again, with the Bulldogs having a twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals. The young Green Paddlers showed that they were indeed a force to be reckoned with by beating all odds and securing a spot in the championship round.
Same stage, different endings
While the Green Paddlers were riding on the momentum of their Cinderella run to the finals, the now 26-time champion, UST Table Tennis Team, proved to be too formidable of a foe for the underdogs to overcome. Already boasting a perfect 14-0 record in the elimination round, it took UST only the minimum amount of games to beat La Salle in their best-of-three championship round. The win ended a three year title drought for the UST Men’s Table Tennis team.
On the women’s side, it was DLSU that proved to be the pace setter as it entered the finals with a 14-match winning streak. UST, however, immediately woke the team up after defeating the Lady Paddlers, 3-2, in Game 1 of the best-of-three series. Facing elimination in Game 2, the Lady Paddlers stepped up as they dominated their counterparts, 3-0. In the deciding match, it was La Salle’s Chantal Alberto who was able to come out on top against UST’s Nina Nacasabog to give DLSU the championship. While it took five games for the Lady Paddler to defeat her foe, the win proved to be enough for DLSU to claim its first championship in the post-Ian Lariba era.
While DLSU was not able to capture the MVP awards of both divisions like it did last year, with Walden Ledesma and Ian Lariba, Emy Dael was able to capture the trophy for the Lady Paddlers. On the other hand, Green Paddler Nathan Siasico was named Season 79’s Rookie of the Year.
With their respective finishes, the men’s team contributed 12 points to La Sale’s General Championship Race (GC). The women’s team collected a maximum of 15 points GC points for winning the title in their division.