After three matches in the stepladder semifinals, the Far Eastern University emerged victorious to book a finals showdown against undefeated De La Salle University, Wednesday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
UST displaces UP, moves to semifinals
Earlier in the day, the University of Santo Tomas had eliminated the University of the Philippines, 3–2, in the knockout first round tie and advanced to the semifinals, Wednesday afternoon.
Danica Alburo started the day for UST with a win against Rowena Morales in three games in the first singles match. The first-year Lady Golden Paddler, who earlier defeated Morales in the eliminations, showed dominance throughout the match. Alburo took the victory 11–3, 11–1, 11–6.
In the second singles match, UAAP Season 76 MVP and UP veteran, Joma Sibal, showed composure to beat Kate Encarnacion in three games. Sibal took advantage of the rookie’s inexperience to clinch an 11–6, 11-6, 11-8 victory to level the tie.
The Lady Maroons wrestled the lead after the doubles match as the Ching sisters, Richanda and CJ, swept Juvylyn Robles and Katrina Tempiatura. UP displayed a variety of attacks to go ahead in the match. Their errors, however, kept it close for UST. In the end, the Maroons got the tie lead with the scores 11-9 11-6 14-12.
UST graduating senior, Celin Montes sent the tie to a deciding singles match by upending Jade Garcia in four games. Garcia took the hard-fought second game, 14-12, but Montes would not be denied of the win. UST won the first game, 11-5, then swept the final two, 11-6 and 11-9.
In the final singles match, another graduating veteran from the España-based squad, Karmela Rocero, went up against UAAP Season 76 Rookie of the Year, Noriko Nishino. Nishino took the first set comfortably, 11-6, but survived Rocero’s scare to get the second, 14-12. With her UAAP career and her team’s medal hopes on the line, the Thomasian then pounced on Nishino in the next two games to level the match, 11–8 11-2. In the deciding game, UP got two match points, but it was Rocero and UST who finished off the tie, 13-11.
With the win, UST moved on to the semifinals against FEU. The Lady Tamaraws have the twice-to-beat advantage.
Lady Golden Paddlers force do-or-die tie
Taking their momentum from the previous tie, UST fashioned a comeback in the semifinals against FEU to force a winner-take-all tie later in the day.
Montes started for UST this time against FEU rookie, Reigean Gabutin, for the first singles match. The Lady Tams’ newcomer got the first two games, 11-7 12-10, but UST took the next two, 11-7 11-1. In the end it was the tenacity of Gabutin that prevailed to get the win for FEU.
FEU junior Rose Fadol made it two in a row for the Lady Tamaraws with a win over Encarnacion in the second singles match. The veteran showed overall brilliance on the table as she dispatched the Thomasian rookie in three games. Fadol took the match, 11-4 11-6 11-4.
It was the turn of the tandem of Tempiatura and Robles to save UST’s season and did just that. The UST pair came from behind to upend Jasmine Jaro and Lyndel Sellado in five exciting games. Sellado and Jaro took the first two games, 11-8 12-10, only Tempiatura and Robles swept the remaining ones, 11-7 11-6 11-8.
From there, UST never looked back as Alburo and Rocero finished off the ordeal. In the third singles match, FEU’s Shamiela Pineda took the first two games, 11-8 11-6, to push her team to within one more game of the Finals. UST had other plans and Alburo took the last three games, 11-5 11-8 11-4. Rocero then sealed the deal for the Lady Golden Paddlers after dominating Shobie Siachua, 11-8 11-5 11-4.
FEU dispatches UST, enters Finals after five years
When the smoke cleared later in the day, FEU had ended a five-year Finals drought when they shook off challenge of UST in four matches.
FEU’s Fadol easily disposed off UST’s Montes in the first singles match in three games, 11-4 11-6 11-5. This blanking was followed up by Pineda in the second singles match. The other Lady Tams veteran overpowered Encarnacion after a tight first game. Pineda doubled the lead for FEU, 14-12 11-4 11-8.
Playing on her final UAAP match, UST’s Robles closed her career with a win in the doubles with Tempiatura. The Thomasians and their opponents, Jaro and Sellado, traded games won before setting up an all-important fifth game. FEU took the first game, 14-12, and UST replied in the second and third, 11-7 12-10. Sellado and Jaro then forced the deciding game after getting the fourth, 11-7. In the fifth game, UST convincingly won it, 11-4, to get into the scoreboard.
In the fourth singles match, FEU rookie Gabutin faced UST’s Energy Bunny Alburo. Alburo took the first game, 11-7, to the delight of the team and the UST audience in attendance. Gabutin then took one back for FEU in the second game, 11-8, to level the match. In the third game, Alburo pounced on Gabutin to get back the lead, 11-5. The Lady Tams’ newcomer then played like a veteran and retaliated in the fourth game, 11-8, after closing it off with a forehand to the right top corner of the opponent’s end of the table. In the final game of the match, Gabutin continued to show her court command that zapped the energy of Alburo and mounted a huge 10-1 lead. The whole FEU squad and their friends on the bleachers were just waiting for the right moment to explode with Gabutin having such advantage. After two straight points from UST, Gabutin then sent another smash to Alburo’s body that secured her the 11-3 win and the Finals ticket for FEU.
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