Paddlers prepped to land on top of the table anew
Published on September 11th, 2014 | by DLSU Sports
UAAP Season 76 was a bountiful year for the DLSU Table Tennis teams after garnering a gold medal finish in the men’s tournament and a silver-glazed season in the women’s division. Earning the most number of points combined in the event, La Salle’s paddlers reigned supreme among the rest. This time around, the team is even looking to finish stronger by accomplishing a championship double—one that has been eluding them in recent years.
Not going anywhere
Now that they are entering the tournament as champions, the Green Paddlers are the team-to-beat, told skipper Jerald Cristobal who admitted that it will be a challenging season for his team. The impressive performance of the men’s team in the elimination round booked them an advantageous seat into the semifinals. A repeat of last season’s dominance bodes well for a title defense.
With Earvin de Pedro the sole departure from last season’s lineup, Cristobal believes his team has what it takes to defend the championship. There will also be a couple of first-timers, Leonard Solis and Francis Garganian, who are ready to help the team in its title retention bid this year.
Losing focus and playing complacently are unwelcome for the UAAP men’s table tennis champions if they are to successfully fend off their rivals from stealing the championship away from them.
Aside from internal hindrances, Cristobal, who won the clinching match in last year’s finals, suggested that some schools have heavy reinforcements which could cause them problems this season. He singled out rivals UST as the main threat as two of its ace players return from ineligibility. Apart from the España’s golden men, last year’s finalists FEU, UE and Adamson were also the other teams the team is watching out for.
Winning the championship was a catalyst to the Green Paddlers’ game play. “We gained more confidence in tournaments. We performed better,” bared Cristobal. He and his teammates, together with the Lady Paddlers, prepared for this season as early as February. The long span of time the team has allotted for Season 77 demonstrates their eagerness on keeping the prize in their hands.
As the target of most teams, the Green Paddlers cannot afford to take their feet off the gas. Cristobal hoped that expectations would not negatively get into their heads. “It would help if we think of ourselves as the underdogs so we could ease the pressure in keeping the championship,” he supplemented.
Reclaiming lost glory
Accomplishing a double round sweep against six other teams is not a feat regularly done by many, but last season the Lady Paddlers did just that. Blowing by the competition, the UAAP Season 75 champions looked well on their way to a conquering finish. However, the long layoff proved to be a liability than an asset as a momentum-driven UP Lady Maroons team shocked the Lady Paddlers in the finals. Emerging from a step-ladder format, the Iskas wiped out the enormous thrice-to-beat advantage of DLSU by winning three straight games which resulted in a power shift from Malate to Diliman.
A season after, ace player and team captain Ian Lariba thinks she and her teammates are hungry to take their trophy back. She elaborated, “We have what it takes to become champions. We gained the finals seat and the thrice-to-beat advantage that came with it so I suppose we could go all the way. Our goal for this season is to recover the championship.”
Lariba cited the importance of momentum as a key factor in last year’s finals. “We realized that it was really important to sustain our momentum going into the finals. We cannot afford to slow down. Once we reach the top, we have to strive to get better so we could play at an optimal level.” In order for them to do that, the Cagayan de Oro native thinks they should perform consistently well to avoid the hiccup they suffered last year.
Last year’s runners-up will miss the services of seasoned players Jellie Ann Yanela and Michaella Yagin, both of whom have forsaken the team due to graduation. In their places come rookies Ina Co and Kimberly Lumenda. Those are the only changes for the Lady Paddlers, relatively intact in their pursuit of regaining the women’s collegiate table tennis’ top prize.
The team is wary of the widespread competition this season. Champions UP are intact while FEU and UST have players coming off redshirt spells. According to Lariba, these are the teams that have the potential of stopping them from their redemption track.
For the women’s team, Lariba said they are ready to do their talking through their deeds. “You don’t have to say anything for as long as you keep on performing, everything will follow,” told Lariba of what could be her team’s words to live by.
Fast and furious action on the tables
The table tennis tournament is perhaps the most jam-packed of all UAAP events. The elimination round is played through a double round robin format all inside four game days. A team can play a maximum of four games in one day as one weekend is allotted for one round. Playoffs are often held inside one or two days depending on the format in place. Hence, it is vital for the Paddlers to be battle-ready at all times.
Cristobal puts a premium on mental toughness in surpassing the challenges the tournament gives. He added, “Almost all of us prepared similarly for the tournament. It all boils down on determination—the will to win each game.”
Meanwhile, Lariba emphasized on playing the game gradually by focusing on every point and in a way that once something happened already, they should learn to recover right away and continue to play. She furthered, “we should learn to adapt regardless of the result. After each game, we can only march on to the next.”
The journey towards a championship double for Coach Lauro Crisostomo’s players will begin on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the Blue Eagle Gym. The Green Paddlers will open their defense against UE at 9:00 AM and will be followed by games versus NU and UST in the afternoon. The Lady Paddlers square off against Adamson, also at 9:00 AM and will cap the day off with an afternoon encounter against FEU.