On her last hurrah in the event, she made it count.
The tall, fifth-year stalwart from University of the East, Keren Pangilinan, repeated her conquest of a Thomasian to exit as the back-to-back champion of the women’s individual epee event, Thursday morning at the Ateneo Blue Eagle Gym.
Pangilinan, who had broken the University of Santo Tomas’ stronghold of the event last year after defeating Hanniel Abella, subdued another Tigress in Gisela Rey, 15-9, in the Finals to take the gold. Rey stayed with the graduating Lady Warrior at the start of the match before the latter used her length to slowly pull away. It was an unexpected finish from a not-so-ideal start.
It had actually been another Lady Warrior who led the pack after the ranking round. Mickyle Bustos dominated her group to take pole position in the draw. Ashley Espiritu of UST took care of the other half of the draw. Pangilinan, on her part, did well enough to be seeded in the knockout phase at fifth place.
Pangilinan started her uphill climb with a close 8-7 decision against Mikaella Castillo, of De La Salle University, to arrange a showdown with teammate Bustos in the Last Four. On her side, Rey shook off the challenge of Ateneo de Manila University’s Patricia Sarmiento and faced La Salle’s Divine Romero in the semifinals.
In the all-UE Top Four battle, Pangilinan edged Bustos, 15-13, to claim a shot to retain the title. However, the UE senior admittedly said, “Actually, gusto kong mag-gold yung teammate ko (Bustos). Pero kailangang ilaban ko rin siya kasi nga gold ako last year.” Nevertheless, a win is a win and every chance she can get to help UE retain the overall women’s title is welcome for Pangilinan.
Rey’s journey to the finals podium was not easy as well. The UST veteran had to deal with a strong opponent in Divine Romero of La Salle in the semifinals to get to last dance. Buoyed by the momentum she had picked up from the Sarmiento win, the España-based epeeist eked out another thriller against the La Sallian rookie, 15-12, with two quick attacks to end the bout.
The road was tough for both finalists, but Pangilinan was the one who made the most of the experience from the start of the day and brought home the title. Rey attempted to snatch the crown from the defending champion with a mini-run in the finals, only Pangilinan was determined to get a back-to-back women’s individual epee title before she shed UE’s colors.
Although she felt successful with the win, Pangilinan definitely wants a bigger victory. “Syempre gusto ko maiwan ko yung team as champion pa rin. Hindi kami susuko talaga hanggang sa Sabado, kailangang gold pa rin makuha namin.”