It was a bittersweet ending for DLSU’s table tennis teams as the men’s and women’s divisions ended their Season 80 campaign on opposite sides of the spectrum. After weeks of intense matches, the Lady Paddlers came home with the gold for the fourth straight year.
Meanwhile, the Green Paddlers returned empty-handed, dropping from second to fifth place this season. For the men’s team, it was a definite blow as they came into the year with the highest of expectations. Meanwhile, the Lady Paddlers obtained their four-peat after a final match-up against UST.
Three steps down
The Green Paddlers weren’t able to maintain their position, nor place higher than their ranking in Season 79. They began this season with an optimistic outlook but fell short of their lofty goals.
The men’s division began the season strong but soon encountered inconsistent game play in the following tournament days. After taking their first two wins against the UE Red Warriors and the FEU Tamaraws, the second day match day ended in the opposite direction for the Green Paddlers as they succumbed to the NU Bulldogs and AdU Soaring Falcons.
The Green Paddlers once again went up against UE, FEU, and NU in the elimination rounds and again were able to defeat the Tamaraws and the Bulldogs, which gave them a leg up advantage to go into the Final Four. However, they fell short in their quest after the Red Warriors defeated them and ended their chances to place in the semifinals. Also, rookie Edward So was unable to snatch the Rookie of the Year award from FEU’s Caballero. All in all, it was a disappointing year for a team that expected a lot from itself.
Completing the four-peat
Even before the season started for the Lady Paddlers, team captain Jamaica Sy dedicated this campaign to former two-time UAAP MVP Yan Lariba, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia back in May. The 2016 Rio Olympics participant was an integral part of the team when she was still playing and has acted as an inspiration to her teammates because of her commendable perseverance and dedication to the team. Sy shared that Lariba motivated them to do better, “This is the least that we could do for her, to fight for our school, ourselves, and for her.”
Staying true to her word, Sy and the rest of the Lady Paddlers started the season strong, winning all of their matches in the opening weekend. The Green and White came back to defeat FEU in their first game of the campaign after going down 0-2. The doubles pair of Kimberly Lumenda and Mardeline Carreon ignited the comeback as they overpowered their opponents, while Sy and Chantal Alberto won their respective singles matches to seal the victory for the Lasallians. The Lady Paddlers then breezed past the AdU Lady Falcons in their second game to notch back-to-back wins in the first day of the tournament.
The Lady Paddlers easily dispatched their opponents in the second day as they conquered the UP Lady Maroons and the NU Lady Bulldogs. The match against the Lady Maroons ended with a score of 3-0, with Sy and Emy Dael prevailing over Ching and Garcia to give La Salle an early lead. The doubles pair of Carreon and Lumenda clinched the victory for the Lady Paddlers with a 3-1 win over their opponents. Sy and Dael again starred for the defending champions as they won their singles matches against the Lady Bulldogs. Carreon and Caressha Bernaldez lost their doubles match but Ina Co redeemed the team with a win in her singles match to clinch the victory.
Victories over UE, ADMU, and UST soon followed as the Lady Paddlers ended the first round on a high note. The defending champions then opened the second round with a 3-0 win over the Lady Maroons as they continued their quest for a fourth consecutive championship. Alberto, Dael, and the duo of Carreon and Bernaldez swept the Lady Bulldogs aside to claim their ninth win of the season. Dael and Alberto powered La Salle yet again as they both won their respective singles matches against the Lady Tamaraws. The doubles pair of Carreon and Bernaldez succumbed to the team of Talay and Alzado but Sy clinched the match by defeating her opponent in a tightly contested match.
The Lady Paddlers completed the elimination round sweep by reigning over UE, ADMU, AdU and UST en route to the finals. Just like last season, the Lady Paddlers faced the UST Golden Tigresses in the finals yet again. The Lasallians absorbed their first loss of the season as the Golden Tigresses defeated the Lady Paddlers, 3-2, in the first game. It served as a wake-up call for the defending champions as they were able to come back and snatch the championship away from UST with a 3-1 win in both Games 2 and 3.
Dael, who represented La Salle alongside team captain Sy in the recently concluded SEA Games, was named the Most Valuable Player of Season 80. The Bacolod native also won the award last season and grabbed the Rookie of the Year award back in Season 78.