The National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs blank rivals University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses to annex another championship with 3-0, as the UAAP Women’s Tennis tournament ended on Saturday, February 28, at the Olivarez College Tennis Center.
Bouncing back from her previous match in the first tie, NU stalwart, Clarice Patrimonio smothers UAAP 75 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Macy Gonzales, with the scores of 6-2 6-2. Patrimonio dictated the pace, making good serves during the match. Gonzales was unable to respond to the Lady Bulldog’s play, committing errors even on her service game. The Thomasian won only a few points in the match due to the miscues of the, otherwise strong, NU newcomer. Patrimonio would not be denied of the victory as she peppered Gonzales’ defense with timely forehand winners.
Maintaining their “Finals” lineup, the defending champions fielded Hannah Espinosa and Junnelyn Polito in the first doubles match against Lenelyn Milo and April Santos, a rematch from Tie 1. It was a similar pattern from their previous meeting, as the blue and gold duo were the more aggressive side. Espinosa and Polito controlled the match with their service game and net play, which caused the Tigresses to commit mistakes. The match initially seemed one-sided, until both pairs pushed their opponents to the limit as most games went to deuce. It was the finishing touch of the Bulldogs that clinched them the first set with 6-2. It was the same story in the second set. NU led 3-0 as they manned the net well, forcing the struggling UST pair to committing errors. In the end, it was Espinosa and Polito who took the match with the second-set score of 6-1.
The Lady Bulldogs were one win away from a back-to-back championship, with the last two games of the day. On the doubles court, NU’s Jzash Canja and Marie Nagret were facing the Tigresses, Genevieve Caorte and Shymae Gitalan. But when last year’s MVP, Tin Patrimonio, took the win during her singles game against Kendies Malinis, the doubles match was abandoned.
The older Patrimonio stood her ground early on the singles match, as she went to take her first service game. The second game grew tight, but NU managed to obtain the win to lead 2-0. After Malinis held her own serve, Patrimonio countered and won two-straight games to keep the lead at 4-1. The Thomasian sophomore bounced back to blank her counterpart, ending the sixth game with a forehand winner. Unfortunately, it was Malinis’ last stand, as NU’s ace player won the next two games to take the set, 6-2, and a game away for the Bulldogs’ victory.
Patrimonio pulled all the stops to grab the final win of the match. Displaying her technical prowess, the second-year player raced to a 5-0 lead. After a tight first game on the Patrimonio serve, Malinis could not capitalize on her own serve as she dropped the second mainly on errors. The Lady Bulldog committed minor errors, but enough to give Malinis a chance to fight back. An emphatic winner at 40-15, ended the fifth game as Patrimonio moved a game away from taking it for NU. Holding on for dear life, Malinis played toe-to-toe in her last service game, swatting away three match points of the Bulldogs. Another winner by the Thomasian forced NU to serve for the title. The last game of the match was a tight affair, as both players forced their opponents to errors. Two service winners by Patrimonio ended the set and the match for their second championship title.
In the awarding ceremony, Ateneo’s doubles specialist Jana Hernandez received the Rookie of the Year Award. It was a solid first year from the Lady Eagle with her partner, ace veteran, Shanin Olivarez in their wins.
The De La Salle University Lady Archers was given the third-place trophy led by former MVP, Marinel Rudas, and all-around player, Nikki Arandia.
After a roller-coaster season, the UST Tigresses took the runner-up trophy. Coach Dennis Sta. Cruz, really felt that NU is a solid team, but he commended his team saying “My girls lumaban din up to the end.” The long-time mentor also added that initially, they would just be content with a Finals stint, however, “when we beat them in the first (round), beatable pala.” In the end, he was just so proud of his wards.
The NU Lady Bulldogs took their second title in just their third season in the UAAP, which serves as a testament to their dedication. Assistant coach Ronald Joven, however, said that they always tell the team this statement, “Ayaw namin na makumpyansa. Yung ibang teams malalakas din.” He also said that it was different story because “girls are more sensitive. Hindi pwede yung pagagalitan mo. Kailangan is motivation.” He ended by giving praise to his wards for their hard work in training that paid off on the court.
NU’s Clarice Patrimonio was named MVP of the UAAP Season 77 Womens Tennis tournament, concluding the season undefeated in all 10 matches. Patrimonio shared that she did not expect to dominate the competition. “Gusto ko lang ilaro yung game ko. Maging confident sa court.” She added that she really had a hard time in her last match against Malinis, but she really vowed to bounce back. In the end, she expressed her happiness that she helped NU win the title, “Masaya ako for this win.”
Her older sister Tin Patrimonio explained that the entry of Clarice into the squad was an added pressure. She also said that, “Mahirap kasi ako yung MVP last year. Pero not this time; she (Clarice) won it kasi meron akong talo.” When asked about her lone loss she told the author, “Hindi ko alam kung anong nangyari. Yung ibang tao rin nagulat.” But after that loss, “ayoko ng matalo kahit isang set.” The second-year ace indeed won the next matches without dropping a set. She also shares the sentiment of her sibling regarding the title, especially for their schoolmates, “Happy ako for them kasi they really train hard under coach Karl and coach Toto.”