The dream is alive.
The De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Netters split their season series against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses, 3-2, and forced a playoff for the second Finals slot on Sunday, February 15, at the Olivarez College Tennis Center.
Entering the match with high aspirations, DLSU started strong as Rachelle De Guzman ripped Thomasian junior Lenelyn Milo, 6-2 6-1. The second-year stalwart played well on service as she was able to limit her rival to a few points. Milo only won two games in the first set, both on her own serve. The same could be said in the second as De Guzman set the tone for the Green and White.
However, UAAP Season 74 Rookie of the Year (ROY) April Santos teamed up with Danica Bautista to upend Princess Castillo and Jenni Dizon to take one for UST, 6-4 6-2. The first set was tight as both teams played well on the net and on the baseline. Dizon had a great passing shot in the fourth game, but the Tigress duo managed to neutralize them in the succeeding points to win the first set. A change in the strategy for La Salle in the second set turned out to be risky, as their commitment to the baseline was countered by excellent net play of the Tigresses.
On Court 4, third-year Lady Archer Nikki Arandia continued to show her versatility as the usual doubles specialist won yet another singles match. Arandia won in straight sets against UST sophomore Kandies Malinis, 6-4 6-2. Much like in the first doubles match on the other court, both players were toe-to-toe in the first set. However, the DLSU standout was able to force the Tigress into committing errors in the second, to breeze through the later stages of the match to take the win for her team.
The see-saw battle continued as UST took the other doubles match. Genevieve Caorte and Shymae Gitalan won versus Lynette Palasan and Janina Luis, 6-1 6-4. The first set was a blowout for Caorte and Gitalan as La Salle committed a lot of errors in the frame. On the other hand, UST played solidly especially at the net. DLSU regained their momentum when Palasan and Luis were able to finally win points on counterattacks. However, it was too late as UST went on to force the tie into a decider.
It was up to two great players, UAAP 74 Most Valuable Player Macy Gonzales and UAAP 75 ROY Marinel Rudas who took the court for UST and DLSU, respectively. The younger ace dictated the pace of the game early on, and was able to force the erstwhile solid Thomasian into errors while having good court control to take the first set, 6-3. UST was unable to bounce back as Rudas obtained the second set with a commanding 6-1 score line to take the match and the win for La Salle.
The win by DLSU forced another chapter in the long-time rivalry between the two schools in UAAP women’s tennis as they will be battling it out for the last Finals ticket on Saturday, February 21, at the same venue. The winner will take on defending titlists National University the following day in Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series.