The University of Santo Tomas may have sealed another runner-up finish in the UAAP fencing men’s division as Team Captain Noelito Jose and the rest of the men’s epee team annexed the event’s gold to their name, Friday at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.
The Thomasians gained a bye in the knockout draw to the Final Four through Jose’s back-to-back championships in the individual play. On the other hand, it was the University of the East Red Warriors who took the other half’s free pass into the semifinals. This left the other four teams to vie for the other two slots in the medal rounds.
In the quarterfinals, University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons shook off the challenge of the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Fencers, to move on and face the Warriors, 43-34. The Ateneans kept the match close until Rod Allen Rolda scored in bunches to put the Maroons way ahead for anchor Apa Orendain to easily close it out.
The other last eight match was nowhere close to that of the Battle of Katipunan as the De La Salle University Green Fencers disposed of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 45-21. The graduating Joshua Rodriguez and individual bronze medallist Rayd Orozco led the charge for the Taft-based squad, thereby arranging a showdown against UST.
The event’s defending champions, UE, flexed their muscles in the semifinals match against the Maroons. After Rondain stunned Nathaniel Perez in the first bout, the pairing went the way of the Warriors up to the finish. In the end, the Warriors returned to the Finalst to the tune of a 45-29 demolition.
On their part, the UST Tiger Fencers through their skipper Jose admitted that they had expected to face La Salle in the semifinals because the latter were stronger than FEU on paper.“Yung La Salle, makakabangga agad natin, malakas yan. Eh solid sila, solid rin kami. Kailangan kung ano yung laro natin, walang kakabahan,” he told his teammates before the day’s competitions.
The expectations and notions of the Thomasians indeed happened – they took on La Salle, a solid opponent. The Green Fencers tried to keep in step with Jose and company in their own Final Four pairing. Nonetheless, the gamble of having Rodriguez as the anchor failed to surprise the Thomasians and the back-to-back individual champion, Jose, sent his team into the Finals, 45-39.
The steady play of UST rolled on to the gold medal match against UE. The España epeeists pulled off a strong start and kept the Warriors at bay. However, it just took a matter of time for the reigning kings to make their move. Sensing danger, Jose pumped up his team and encouragingly said, “Sundin lang [natin] yung tinuturo ni coach.”
His teammates heeded to his words and kept UST above waters up to the anchor bout. The competitor in Perez scared Jose and cut the deficit to one, 42-43, before Jose did something different from what he had done in the individual final.
“Huwag kang abang lang ng abang, kaya mo rin namang sumugod,” UST epee coach Arman Bernal told his captain. True to his words, he followed his mentor’s advice and attacked Perez twice to seal the deal for UST, 45-43.