The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons blazed in the first three matches against the struggling De La Salle University Green Netters, and snatched their second straight win and third overall, 3-2, on Chinese New Year, Monday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Veteran Gelo Esguerra jump-started the day for the Diliman-based team as he claimed a gruelling three-set match against LA Cañizares, 6-4 4-6 6-3, in the first singles match. Either player had mounted a comeback in the respective sets, taking advantage of miscues on service and returns of the opponent. In the deciding frame, however, Esguerra scored on his net approaches to punctuate the match with a consolidated service break.
The doubles tandem of Kyle Joseph and Joshua Miranda followed this up with a dominating straight-set win, 6-0 6-2. The Maroons leaned on their service in order to easily attack La Salle’s Hans Asistio and Akio Sy throughout the match. Joseph and Miranda controlled the outing from the get-go, though the Green Netters snatched a pair of games on their serve.
Playing in an unusual venue at the Center, on the farthest court, rookie Vince Salas silently overpowered DLSU veteran Qoqo Allian in two 6-3 sets. Salas dictated the pace of the match with his arsenal of power shots, forcing the La Sallian on the defensive. Allian had moments in the game, breaking the Maroon rookie twice in both sets, but could not turn the match around.
“Our goal is to get the championship – straight to the point,” said Esguerra when asked on the team’s agenda for the season. The veteran, however, emphasized that they still have much to work on, especially in closing out matches. On their game against the NU Bulldogs, Esguerra shared, “We have four days to train. Train hard lang and puso. Yun lang.”
With the tie win secured, the Maroons threatened to sweep the Green Netters as Joshua Cano and the duo of GBoy Mariano and Gabriel Eduardo Gutierrez took the opening sets of their respective matches. Cano cruised past Betto Orendain, 6-3, in the first frame as the tall La Sallian rookie succumbed to errors. On the other hand, Mariano and Gutierrez fired excellent serves after serves against Jonah Cano and Kyle Parpan, which fuelled UP to a similarly clinical 6-1 first-set win.
The Green Netters, however, stopped the agony and pushed for reversals in the next two sets. Orendain upended Cano, 6-4 6-3, to register his debut UAAP win. The rookie pummelled the inconsistent play of the returning UP stalwart, and blasted some spectacular passing shots, particularly in the second frame. Orendain never looked back in the deciding frame, ending the match with a love game to his favor.
The La Sallian Cano and his partner Parpan, similarly, shook off the challenge of the veteran UP Maroons and got their team’s second match win, 6-2 7-6. With service slowly failing Gutierrez and Mariano, DLSU used their service game to their own advantage. Cano and Parpan then closed the match with an emphatic 7-3 rout in the tiebreak.
The UAAP Season 76 Finals rematch and the battle of the league’s top two teams, the National University Bulldogs and UP Fighting Maroons, happens on Saturday at the same venue. Meanwhile, the winless DLSU Green Netters hope to snare a win before the first round closes at the same day’s end against the University of the East Red Warriors.