One more to destiny
Defending champions National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs are a step closer to a consecutive victory as they blanked University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses, 3-0, at Tie 1 of the best-of-three Finals series, Sunday, February 22 at the Olivarez College Tennis Center.
Sophomore Kendies Malinis of UST, fought hard against leading Most Valuable Player (MVP) candidate, Clarice Patrimonio, but could not complete the upset. The NU newcomer remained unscathed after winning a tight 6-4, 7-5 match. Malinis and Patrimonio battled toe-to-toe as either player won their own service games early on. The Lady Bulldog had the first break of serve and managed to consolidate in the first set. Malinis kept the match close, with her good service being her counterattack. This surprised the solid NU stalwart, and had forced her to commit uncharacteristic errors.
The second set continued in the same manner. Three straight service winners by Malinis during the crucial stages gave UST the lead, but it was the patience and experience of Patrimonio that prevailed as she got that momentous break of serve to lead 6-5, and consequently held on to win the set and the match.
A tweak in the lineup paid dividends for the reigning queens as the usual singles player, Hannah Espinosa, teamed up with Junnelyn Polito for NU to upend the stronger Thomasian duo of April Santos and Lenelyn Milo. Polito and Espinosa shocked Santos and Milo to lead 3-0 early in the first set. The Lady Bulldogs pair served well, while UST was unable to return the ball. The Tigresses bounced back as they held on to their own service and finally scored on winners. The match grew into a tight affair, but it was NU who walked away with the win, 6-3, 6-4 and the lead, 2-0.
NU only needed one more match to seal the deal. UAAP 76 MVP, Tin Patrimonio, and the tandem of Jzash Canja and Marie Nagret took the court for NU in the second singles and second doubles, against UAAP 74 MVP, Macy Gonzales, and the duo of Genevieve Caorte and Shymae Gitala.
Both Patrimonio and the Canja-Nagret duo breezed through their opponents in the first set as they won 6-1 and 6-0, respectively. Patrimonio struggled during some stretches of the set, committing errors just when she was about to close the games. On the other hand, in the doubles court, Canja and Nagret dominated with good service and court control, which Caorte and Gitala had no rebuttal for the onslaught.
It was Canja and Nagret who would continue to prove strong for NU as they were able to dictate the pace of the rest of their match. The UST pair took a few points and won some games, but this was mainly due to the many errors committed by the Bulldogs, especially Canja. Nevertheless, the young NU player bounced back with her net play that put the finishing toucher on the match. She and Nagret won the set and the match, 6-3.
With the tie decided, the match between Tin Patrimonio and Macy Gonzales was abandoned with NU leading the second set, 2-1. The Lady Bulldogs are an inch closer to a back-to-back championship and can clinch it with a win on Saturday, February 28, at the same venue.
The Tigresses need to come up with a plan to extend the series to a do-or-die battle the following day.