The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles were on point and romped to their third straight victory, repeating over the University of Santo Tomas Male Shuttlers, 3-2, Saturday morning at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
In a crucial tie for the Finals berth, the Loyola Heights men stopped the Thomasians to get share of the second place.
Captain Ino Canlas started it off for the Blue and White, dominating Joel Librodo with a double bagel win. The fifth-year Atenean was too strong, leaving the opposition to scour for points throughout the match.
With injury plaguing Nico Lanzado, the usual singles player took the doubles court this time with Bernlou Bering. The fourth-year was actually taking over Warren Lagahit, who suffered a knee injury.
Nonetheless, despite the novelty of the partnership, the UST tandem pulled past Julian Dayrit and Anton Punzalan in the first doubles match, 6-2, 6-4, and forced the equalizer.
However, the deadlock would not last long, as Marcen Gonzales came back to clinch the first set of the second singles match over Dave Mosqueda at the tiebreak. The third-year Eagle then used it to take the second set convincingly at 6-1.
His brother Bong was not as fortunate, as the España-based squad once more levelled the tie. Christian Lopez showed his versatility as he won, this time in a singles match for the Tigers. UST clinched it at 6-1, 6-0.
Nonetheless, the tie did not take long, as Erj Gatdula and Luke Flores were just about to place the finishing touches on their impending win. A huge serve from Flores followed by a strong hit for Gatdula sent Ateneo to a third consecutive win and fourth overall.
Gatdula is pleased that he and Flores are finally getting their groove. “Kami lang, we worked hard for this talaga. So, sabi namin, ‘Di na pwedeng maulit ‘yun(g slump). We trusted our coaches, we trusted our teammates, and of course, we trusted ourselves. Lumabas na siya, so sana tuluy-tuloy.
“It was a huge win for us. It gave us a bigger chance for us to go to the Finals. I hope we do this again tomorrow,” the third-year Blue Eagle emphasized.
That crucial battle against archrivals De La Salle University (3-2) will take place on Sunday at 8am. Meanwhile, UST (2-3) will face the defending champions University of the East (4-0) later that day at noon.