Fourth straight and a chance at a three-peat.
Defending champions the National University (NU) Bulldogs dismantled the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, 5-0, to take their 8th consecutive win this season and advance to their fourth Finals appearance in a row last Sunday, February 8, at the Olivarez College Tennis Center.
Season 75 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Lean Lazaro started strong for the reigning kings as he won against La Salle sophomore Qoqo Allian in straight sets, 6-2 6-0. The Green Archer was able to keep in step with Lazaro in the first set as the usually solid Lazaro committed errors in the said frame. In the following set, however, the Bulldog ace player was able to play better, countering Allian’s returns with winners that sealed the deal for the champion.
Current MVP Fritz Verdad continued his winning streak as he upended a stubborn Kyle Parpan, 6-1 6-2. Parpan was able to push Verdad with his powerful returns. It was the NU standout though who was able to dictate the pace of the match. With his patented patient play and timely attacks, the singles stalwart made sure to answer any attempt of Parpan to make the game a close one.
The other singles player for the Bulldogs, Dheo Talatayod bounced back from his first ever setback this season as he outplayed another DLSU sophomore LA Cañizares in three sets, 6-3 2-6 6-0. Talatayod played better this time as he was able to finally get his serving game and winners going. Cañizares was able to execute in the following set, keeping in step with NU. The Bulldog veteran, however, pummeled the La Sallian in the following set to get the win for NU.
John Accion and Francis Alcantara also went through a tight matchup with DLSU’s Estoy Pantua and Dale Gorospe. They won in three sets, 3-6 6-1 6-3. The recently graduated Pantua and newbie Gorospe took the first set against the NU tandem with good net play and by countering the service game of the latter with timely returns. When the Bulldogs’ duo was able to keep their heads in the game, it was all Accion and Alcantara. The tandem of blue and gold was able to sweep the match.
The solid doubles team-up of Al Madrio and Jigo Peña kept their winning ways going as they swept the erstwhile potent partnership of Alvee Villamor and Akio Sy of the green and white. The doubles stalwarts continued with strong net play and serving to frustrate the La Sallians especially in the first set. The DLSU tandem managed to keep the game close in the second set when they were able to answer the service game of Madrio and Peña. It was too late though, as the latter put another W in their own record.
The win formalizes the entry of the Bulldogs into the Finals, their fourth straight since re-entering the league in that same span of time.
NU will take on their Finals rivals from last year, the University of the Philippines on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at the same venue. Meanwhile, DLSU will go up against University of Santo Tomas on a crucial tussle also on the 14th. DLSU needs to win their remaining ties to possibly force a playoff for the second Finals slot.