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Saturday, May 25, 2024

NU women, UST men retain tennis crowns

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National University and University of Santo Tomas successfully defended their respective championships in the women’s and men’s divisions at the conclusion of the UAAP Season 86 Tennis tournaments on Sunday at the Felicisimo Ampon Tennis Center.

The Lady Bulldogs leaned once more on the heroics of Elise Abarquez to secure a third straight UAAP title after a 6-3, 6-0 conquest of Female Tennister Justine Maneja in the deciding singles match as the tie went to a truce at two matches apiece.

“That loss in the first tie, I think we needed that, para mapa-realize sa amin na kahit na-sweep namin ‘yung eliminations, pwede pa rin kaming matalo. And na-overcome namin ‘yung as a team,” said graduating team captain Mae Bornia.

On the other hand, the Male Tennisters pulled the rug out from under the Ateneo de Manila University for a back-to-back championship with Richard Bautista and Nash Agustines dominating JJ Llavore and Stef Gurria, 6-4, 6-2, in the second doubles rubber.

“Pressured din kami kasi syempre in-eexpect ng mga tao na ma-defend namin ‘yung title. Pero maganda ‘yung preparation namin, mahaba ‘yung preparation namin. Itong last na ‘ti ang ganda ng nilaro ng mga bata. Ito na talaga ‘yung pang-Finals,” UST assistant coach and Philippine tennis icon Johnny Arcilla shared.

Bornia and her trusted partner Alliah Ragunton, both playing in their last UAAP matches, set up the comeback after the opponents from España Boulevard threatened to take the title away with a 2-0 advantage.

Alexei Santos put UST in the lead with a huge 6-3, 6-2 victory over JM Carcueva in the opening singles match, before Rookie of the Year Kaye Emana doubled the cushion with a 6-4, 6-2 clinic against Angela Cabaral.

That would be all for the challengers as the second doubles pair set up Abarquez’s clincher in the crucial moment of the day.

Danna Abad, who steered NU past University of the Philippines in last year’s Finals series, pulled through in her second straight doubles assignment with Rovie Baulete to level the tie, 6-0, 6-4, against Minette Bentillo and Nicole Dela Rita.

Bornia and Ragunton’s efforts are rewarded as they were named co-MVPs for the season.

“Thankful kami sa mga seniors na nag-step up talaga sila to lead the team. Mahihirapan kami kasi after this season tatlo silang mawawala. But we will regroup, we will recruit, and let’s see what will happen next year,” said Lady Bulldogs’ head coach Ronald Joven.

In the men’s side, Arcilla, head coach Alexander Diego, and the rest of the team decided to gamble on putting back-to-back MVP Nilo Ledama in one of the doubles pairings.

The crucial decision paid off as Ledama and eventual Finals MVP Steven Sonsona took the first doubles match against the Blue Eagles’ top pair of Nio Tria and the season’s top newbie Axl Gonzaga, 6-2, 6-1, starting off the comeback.

Noy Seno picked up the Blue Eagles’ eventual lone win of the day with 6-1, 6-0 quick work over rookie Christopher Sonsona.

EJ Tangub, though, made sure to repeat against Austin Delos Santos to put the Male Tennisters back in the driver’s seat at 2-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 victory in the second singles match to set up Bautista and Agustines for the clincher.

“Sa ngayon, balik aral muna sila. Then, si coach Balong (Diego), pupunta ‘yan sa Palarong Pambansa para tumingin ng mga baong players. And then, mag-prepare ulit kami for next season,” shared coach Arcilla on UST’s three-peat plan.

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