With National University having clinched the first championship ticket and University of the Philippines just ahead with one tie, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Netters remained in the hunt for the second Finals berth, demolishing archrivals De La Salle University Green Netters, 5-0, Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Sophomore Iyo Canlas set the tone for the day after he routed JR Arguelles, 6-1 6-0. The Ateneo stalwart bucked a recurring injury to overpower the lanky La Sallian. After Arguelles took a game on his own serve in the first set, Canlas dictated the pace that led to that blanking in the following set.
In the other singles match, Iyo’s elder brother Ino struggled, but eventually registered another shutout against third-year Green Netter Kyle Parpan, 6-4 6-3. It was a battle of power shots, but Ino Canlas won most of the rallies. Canlas consolidated his break advantages in both sets to eventually take the match.
Johann Exconde and Luke Flores then sealed the win for Ateneo in the first doubles match, against Jonah Cano and Betto Orendain. Despite some difficulties in the first set, the Blue Netters used their solitary break advantage to get the first set at 7-5. The two tall Ateneans then never looked back in the second set against DLSU and wrapped up the frame, the match, and the tie at 6-3.
The Green Netters, with nothing to lose, had a solid stand in Hans Asistio and Qoqo Allian in the second doubles match. La Salle stunned the formidable Ateneo duo of Erj Gatdula and AJ Rivero in the first set at 6-4. However, the Blue Netters woke up from this setback and breezed past Asistio and Allian in the following sets to get Ateneo one tie away from the first blanking of the season, 6-1 6-2.
Rookie Marcen Gonzales then clinched the first shut-out of UAAP 78 for Ateneo after two contrasting sets, 6-4 6-0, over LA Cañizares. Gonzales and Cañizares fought toe-to-toe in the opening set, exchanging service holds and breaks. Eventually, the lone break of serve went the rookie’s way. The Atenean then muscled his way in the second set to close out the day with a flourish.
With the win, Ateneo registered their first-ever sweep against their archrivals in years and kept themselves within striking distance of UP for the second finals slot.