With the NU Lady Bulldogs not fielding a team this season, the University of Santo Tomas was the most favored team to win it all.
Seven ties later, the lady tennisters from España completed a season sweep, concluding with a 3-1 conquest of the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, to end their four-year title drought, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Missing senior Ingrid Gonzales to injury, the Tigresses had to adjust their lineup despite the crucial nature of the tie.
Ateneo’s Khrizelle Sampaton made sure she would make her last UAAP match count. The fifth-year Lady Eagle dispatched her opponent, UST team co-captain Kendies Malinis in two sets. It was tight win at 6-4, 7-5.
Nonetheless, the top seeds would take it from here.
Eventual Most Valuable Player Erika Manduriao proved as able substitute to Gonzales as she linked up with Precian Rivera for the Tomasinas’ first win. Despite some struggles on their serves, the UST plucked the crucial hold to win the first set at 6-4.
In the second set, both teams gained composure on their service games, which turned the contest into who will get that break of serve. It was Manduriao and Rivera who took that one to lead 4-3, which they ultimately converted to a 6-3 win.
Monica Cruz then took the go-ahead match for UST after taking care of eventual Rookie of the Year Martina Bautista. The Tigress remained composed throughout the contest and carved a convincing 6-2, 6-0 win.
It was then up to captain Genevieve Caorte and Danica Bautista to maybe take it for the four-time bridesmaids.
The two seniors did not disappoint, even as UAAP Season 78 Rookie of the Year Jana Pages and newbie Carmen So gave a good fight. Eventually, it was the desire of the graduating Caorte that pushed her and Bautista for the 6-3, 6-3 victory for the title.
Caorte was pleased that they overcame that huge pressure of being title favorites and converted it to really winning it all. “Feeling grateful kami. Unang-una, lagi kong sinasabi sa mga teammates ko na ‘yung magpapanalo sa ‘min is ‘yung tapang, ‘yung lalaban kami. Tsaka ‘yung unity namin,” she said.
The graduating senior shared that they knew had a chance to win it all even last year. “Lagi kaming runner-up, pero last year pa meron chance. Kinakapos lang kami.”
For Manduriao, it was a great feeling to finally end the drought. “Sobrang saya namin. Matagal na naming inaantay ‘to.”
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