So far, so good in the place they now call home
The University of the East Red Warriors continue to live up to their billing as tournament favorites, as they finally took one over the defending champions National University Bulldogs, 4-1, and raced to their fourth consecutive win of the season, Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
If such start was surprising, senior stalwart Rodolfo Barquin Jr. shared a secret. “Nag-prepare po kami talaga for this season. Tapos dito talaga kami sa Rizal nagte-train.”
“Last year kasi nung naglaro dito, hindi namin gamay yung court. So, ngayon nag-train talaga kami rito,” he said.
Their familiarity with the venue was once more evident in this statement win over the quadruple titleholders.
UAAP Season 77 Rookie of the Year Josshua Kinaadman opened up the rout with his third straight win of the present season. The third-year singles player blanked Jeric Accion, 6-0, 6-0, in the first singles match.
At the other side of the Center, 17-year-old AJ Lim bucked a nagging groin injury to make short work of Arc Dolorito with a similar strong scoreline, 6-0, 6-1.
Barquin then clinched the tie back in court 4 in the third singles match over Jeremiah Latorre. The second-year Bulldog made a good account of himself in the second set, but the experience of the senior Red Warrior prevailed after two sets, 6-0, 6-2.
The doubles matches of the UE-NU pairing last year had gone the red side’s way, but both teams shared the win this time.
Kiko Alcantara and AJ Alejandre stopped the run of Rogelio Estaño Jr. and Rolly Saga in three sets, 6-4 4-6, 6-3, to claim NU’s lone win of the day in the first doubles match.
On the other hand, Paulo Baran and Jeric Delos Santos escaped past Jigo Peña and Justine Prulla, 6-4, 6-4, to close out the day for the still-undefeated Recto-based squad.
Since they are accustomed to the venue, Barquin feels that they just need to bring their A-game every time. “Wala na kaming excuse na hindi namin kabisado yung venue,” he noted.
The fifth-year doubles specialist also said that, “Pag punta mo sa court, wag ka dapat makukumpiyansa kasi kami yung inaasahan na team. Hindi kami dapat ma-pressure kasi naka-practice kami sa court [na ‘to].”
The Red Warriors (4-0) will try to complete the first-round sweep as they take on the De La Salle University Green Archers (1-2) on Sunday, February 26.
The Bulldogs (1-2), on the other hand will face the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons (1-2) in a rematch of last year’s Finals after the UE-DLSU tie.