Veneza Dayao broke through the stranglehold of University of Santo Tomas and University of the Philippines in the heavier classes, powering University of the East to its first-ever UAAP Women’s Judo crown, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Warriors finished with 30 points, just two ahead of former five-time champions UST Lady Judokas. UE’s one-gold-and-one-silver haul was enough to propel it to the historic championship.
Going into the day, UE captain Jea Lopez shared that, “Nag-stick lang naman po kami sa general game plan namin na kahit anong mangyari, walang bibitaw, walang susuko sa gitna ng laban.”
Eventual Rookie of the Year Sydney Sy, as expected, dominated her UAAP debut. The world sambo medalist took care of UP’s Jubelle Vergara in the semifinals, before finishing teammate Risa Dela Cruz for the gold in the heavyweight class.
However, Christine Pagdanganan was not able to close it out. Fighting Maroon Justine Main claimed her second straight half-heavyweight gold to help UP finish on the podium in third place at 22 points.
Lopez, the season’s Most Valuable Player, feels pleased that they accomplished their mission. “Super nagpapasalamat po kay God and also sa coaches po namin na naniwala po sa ‘min from the very start,” she said.
“Kahit noon pong dati may minor setbacks, ‘yun po ‘yung naging fire namin talaga. Nagyon po sobrang saya. Hindi kami makapaniwala na after ilang years, first time pong nag-champion ang women’s team.”