Last year’s champions, UP, bucked off a first-match loss, to upend a feisty Far Eastern University (FEU), 4-1, and started their title-retention bid on a high note.
In the first singles, FEU sophomore, Thea Pomar, went ahead at the early goings of the first game, then followed it up with seven unanswered points to wrestle for control. In the heat of the battle, the second-year Lady Tamaraw broke her racket and went out to get one on her quarters inside the venue. To the dismay of UP Head Coach Malvin Alcala, Pomar was just given a verbal warning upon returning to the court. As if trying to prove a point, Lady Maroons skipper, Bea Bernardo leveled the game at 18 with a 6-0 run of her own. Pomar, however, finished the job and took the game, 21-18. At the second set, Bernardo nosed out Pomar after another close start to get to the break, 11-9. FEU, again, went on a scoring run after the ceasefire and mounted a huge advantage to close out the match, 21-17.
UP’s Ann Marañon followed up her batchmate’s win from the opposing school to take one for her own, in straight games after beating senior Michal Duquilla. Last year’s Rookie of the Year uncorked a strong start, keeping FEU at bay, never faltering, to snatch the opening frame, 21-11. It was a tighter second game, but Marañon again went into the interval ahead, 11-7. Duquilla attempted to counter the game of her opponent initially however, the veteran could not stop Marañon’s onslaught, as the latter led 19-10. Duquila was then able to score six points to cut the lead to 4, 16-20. However, UP would not be denied of the win, and leveled the tie at one game.
In a battle of young guns, it was the tandem of reigning Most Valuable Player, Jessie Francisco, and rookie Lea Inlayo who emerged victorious over Pomar and Hannah Tudtud in two games of the first doubles match. Tudtud and Pomar pushed for the early lead at 6-3, but it was countered by the efficient play of the UP duo. Francisco and Inlayo built from this momentum and snared the first game, 21–15. The Lady Maroons picked it up in the following frame, and led by as much as 7 points, 16–9. The reigning Most Valuable Player and her upstart partner closed the match, and snatched the upper hand in the tie for UP, 21–11.
In the second doubles, Marañon and teammate Marina Caculitan bounced back from a slow start against Duquilla and Maridel Rivera to register win number 1 for UP. FEU mounted an 11–5 lead going into the break and used it as a springboard to get control of the match. With momentum on their side, the Lady Tamaraws took three straight points to end the first game in their favor, 21–15. At the second frame, both tandems exchanged runs and points before the UP duo went to game point, 20–19. After several close calls, Caculitan and Marañon finally leveled the match, 24–22. Building from this win, the Lady Maroons stepped up and finished off FEU easily in the deciding game, 21–10.
Top national junior player and UP rookie, Inlayo, swept her opening day assignments after pulling through FEU’s Tudtud in the final singles match. The young upstart built a 12–8 lead, and shook off the challenge of her senior opponent to get the first game, 21–18. It was a similar tight battle in the following canto, but UP went into the match point, 20–19. Tudtud was able to save one to tied the game; nonetheless, Inlayo sealed the win for UP, 22 –20.
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