by John Edison Ubaldo
The University of the Philippines Women’s Table Tennis Team shrugged off two elimination round losses to defending champions De La Salle University and completed a sweep of the finals showdown to nab the crown in the UAAP Season 76 Table Tennis Championship Thursday at the Blue Eagle Gym.
UP reclaimed the title they last held in 2011 from defending champions DLSU, who only needed to win two games to successfully keep the crown. The Lady Archers touted a thrice-to-beat advantage after remaining unscathed in the elimination round.
“Masaya ako kasi despite our problems internally sa team, we pulled through. Team spirit and goal ang nangibabaw,” said Season 74 MVP Bea Magpantay. “Sabi nga ng coach namin kanina, stronger than the will to win is the power to begin.”
Joma Sibal, who brought home the Most Valuable Player award this season, pushed UP early on in Game 1 with a 3-1 thrashing of Jamaica Sy, but Rowena Morales suffered a loss with identical score to Season 75 MVP and RP Team standout Ian Lariba in the succeeding game.
The tandem of Richanda Ching and Magpantay then regained the lead for UP with a close 3-2 escape against Darian Talento and Angelie Yanela. Rookie-of-the-year Noriko Nishino then made sure it was UP’s win blanking Marcela Galera, 3-0, to take Game 1.
The Lady Archers looked poised for a comeback in Game 2 with Lariba repeating over Morales in the opening game, 3-0. But UP’s Lusha Maderal quickly countered on a shutout of Galera, 3-0, which started off a three-game slide with the double’s team, Magpantay and Ching, and Nishino taking care of business to push UP a game away from the crown.
DLSU was not to be outdone as they came out firing in Game 3 with their backs against the wall. Lariba continued with her flashy showing taking out Sibal, 3-0. Morales then notched her first win in the finals with a shutout of Season 76 Rookie of the Year Dona Gamila, 3-0.
Magpantay and Ching then took off from where they left in Game 2 duplicating a 3-0 result against Talento and Yagin. But Nishino suffered a blowout against Sy, 3-0, in the fourth game to force a fifth game decider.
Maderal then left no stones unturned paddling her way to a 3-0 cruise against Galera.
UP head coach Oscar Santelices was also announced as the best coach for Season 76.