UAAP: Green, Lady Judokas spread roots in pursuit of greater heights

After both teams finished in fourth place last season, the DLSU Green and Lady Judokas are now looking forward to the next edition of the UAAP Judo tournament. In Season 81, the Green and Lady Judokas bagged 10 and nine points, respectively, both failing to make it to the podium. However, this season, in spite of whatever obstacles that may stand in their way, both teams are determined to reach new heights.

Roots before branches

After missing out on a podium finish last season, the Green and Lady Judokas had to face a loss of players—a matter that is more impactful than one might initially think. Coach Sam Bernales explains that the Judo tournament includes eight categories, and ideally, each team should put forward two representatives for each of these categories. Because of this, the quantity of players available on the squad could easily mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Putting in a lot of time and effort to fill in the gaps of his teams, Bernales eventually managed to recruit a good number of Judokas, including some graduate students. These new additions to the team are highly anticipated to help the Green-and-White accumulate points in their pursuit of a podium finish. Green Judokas team captain Ezra Malanos shares that the rookies are eager to represent the University, “The drive is there, and they’re really hyped up [for] this coming UAAP.”

With the Judokas’ new lineup being a mix of familiar faces as well as some new ones, Bernales  recognized the need for his players to gain experience before the tournament, and thus spent the preseason doing as much as he could to prepare them for the challenging season ahead. “Actually, noong off-season, [we focused] more on back to basics…We made sure that the basics were in place,” Bernales explains, adding that the Lasallians were able to get the practice they needed by participating in tune-up games against players from other teams.

However, it was not just the coach who pushed the Taft-based squads to develop—the duty also fell on the shoulders of the team’s respective leaders. Lady Judokas team captain Charmea Quelino shares that she personally requested for the team to take a trip to Baguio in order to play against strong athletes from the province, as well as to help the rookies gain more exposure before the major tourney.

The trip turned out to be productive as the players were not only able to improve their stamina from the high-altitude environment, but also to strengthen their bond as a team. “Maganda ang naging outcome [of the trip] kasi maliban sa nakita koyung physical condition, bonding [din] sa team,” affirms Bernales.

(The outcome [of the trip] was good because apart from working on their physical condition, the team was given the opportunity to bond with each other.)

All in all, the Judokas purposefully invested a lot of time in improving the relationships within the team, with Quelino further revealing that the initiative had come from the players themselves. “Sobrang lakas ng bond ng team namin ngayon, so each of us, ine-expect namin na tutulungan naminyung isa’t isa para umangat,” she expresses.

(Our bond within the team is really strong now, so each of us is expected to help one another out in order to rise together.)

Looking ahead through a positive lens

This coming Season 82, the Green and Lady Judokas will be eager to show up to the tourney as a revitalized squad. Quelino recalls that during the preseason, she saw all her teammates working hard and giving it their all. With this diligence during training, she expects everyone on the team to push themselves and perform at their best throughout the competition.

After building on their strengths and revamping both teams, the Lasallians are aiming for better results. “We placed fourth last year, [so] no one’s expecting us to do [well] this year, but we’re [going to] do our best,” Manalos conveys his positive expectations for the team. “I believe that we have a big chance of [achieving] a podium finish this year.”

Still, Manalos recognizes the strength of their competitors, as he says, “Currently, we’re the underdogs.” Additionally, Bernales admits that although they were able to recruit many new players, the Green-and-White would still be outnumbered by the other teams, which may be to their disadvantage.

Not backing down from the challenge, however, Bernales remains firm and emphasizes that, “I have strong faith in my [teams].” He hopes to transmit this confidence to his players as he spearheads them into the coming season, reminding them to “[have] the right attitude to really get what they want.” After all, Judo is no doubt a tough sport that, as Bernales puts it, is only 10 percent dependent on the athletes’ skills, but 90 percent determined by cultivating a strong mentality. It is evident that the air surrounding the Green and Lady Judokas has been positive up until this point—if sustained, this optimistic outlook could prove to be an asset to aid both teams in conquering the challenges that inevitably come with the UAAP tournament. Anchored on the strong bonds between the players and the willful leadership from their captains and coach, the Green-and-White eagerly await the day when their hard work would finally come into fruition.

Disclaimer: The LaSallian published the above article for its February print issue, released February 11, under the impression that the UAAP Season 82 tournament would push through as scheduled. On February 12, the UAAP’s Board of Trustees and Board of Managing Directors postponed matches indefinitely starting February 15 in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of February 25, the UAAP Board has released new schedules for the competition, announcing that the games are set to begin on Saturday, February 29.

Annika Cañiza

By Annika Cañiza

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