With their umpteenth Finals appearance already sealed, the University of Santo Tomas Lady Tiger Tennisters routed Ateneo de Manila University, 4-1, and kept within whispering distance of the defending champions National University in the standings, Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Precian Rivera started the onslaught for the Tigresses as she upended Alexis McLean, 6-2 6-1 in the first singles match. The Thomasian rookie-veteran used her early breaks of serve to easily snare the win over her Atenean opponent.
In the second singles match, rookie Erika Manduriao played like a veteran and defeated her Ateneo counterpart Rocio Climent. Manduriao and Ciment battled hard in the opening frame, but a solitary break going her way was enough for the former to take the set at 6-4. From there, Manduriao dominated the following set and closed out the match at 6-1.
Former Rookie of the Year Lenelyn Milo and partner Shy Gitalan secured UST’s fifth win of the tournament in the first doubles match. The Thomasians used their Finals experience to pull off tight victories in the first and third sets of the match over a strong Atenean pair in Shannin Olivarez and Jana Pages. Ateneo romped past UST in the second set with a 6-1 score, but the comeback from the Tigresses gassed out the former in the deciding set. Milo and Gitalan took the other two sets with similar 6-4 score lines.
Playing doubles this time, Kendies Malinis and Ingrid Gonzales stymied the two other Atenean Jana’s, Exconde and Hernandez, in the other doubles match. Malinis and Gonzales easily took the opening set at 6-1. However, Exconde and Hernandez rallied back and kept the second set on serve, before UST consolidated the lone break of the frame and snared the victory.
Third-year Lady Blue Netter Khrizelle Sampaton saved Ateneo’s day once more in the third singles match. Sampaton pulled through a tough three-set win against none other than a former UAAP MVP in Macy Gonzales. Gonzales plucked the first set at 6-3, before Sampaton forced a deciding set with an emphatic 6-2 second-set victory. The gritty battle continued as the third set went into a tiebreak, which the Ateneo junior won.
UST will try to force a best-of-three Finals showdown when they face the undefeated National University Lady Bulldogs on Saturday. On the same day, Ateneo will attempt to get a season sweep of still winless University of the Philippines Lady Maroons.