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UAAP 80: MEN'S TABLE TENNIS
Fighting Maroons end struggles with a third-place finish
With just one solid finish of the eliminations, the UP men's table tennis team finally got over the hump.
Despite falling short of a Finals stint, it is not a failure this time as the Fighting Maroons ultimately got rewarded with the University's first UAAP trophy this season — a second-runner plum.
Losing vital cogs in team captain Dominic Duot and Hesed Sombilon, the squad prepared hard for this season. However, new skipper Blu Lamayan admitted that the loss of some players was not really the primary problem that has been holding them back.
He said, "Yung target lang po talaga namin is huwag maulit yung last year na sa training palaging late, laging absent. So, sa training pa lang, sino-solve na namin yung problems ng team."
"Na-solve naman namin," the fourth-year Sports Science major shared. "Maganda yung attendance namin sa training and sobrang energetic sa training."
The change in the attitude and outlook of the team led to the squad's renewed dream of returning to the Final Four.
And they did just that, overhauling another slow first round start and racking up four straight wins to get to 7–5 before the last day of the elimination round. On that day, however, the Maroons have suffered a huge blow after absorbing a sorry 3–1 loss to the National University Bulldogs. Nonetheless, all was not lost and what was needed was just a rout over the University of the East Red Warriors.
"Basically, our backs were against the wall. Sobrang tagilid ng standing namin. Sabi lang ni coach na give your best lang. Kapag binigay mo yung best mo, lalabas at lalabas na mananalo ka talaga," Lamayan shared what was on their minds before that all-important tie.
Coach Oscar Yoshihiro Santalices has given a strong request as the boys went into that battle against the Red Warriors. "We had to win either 3–0 or 3–1, hindi pwedeng 3–2. Kasi 'pag nag-3–2, para manalo kami, uulit yung laro versus UE for positioning." Despite some pressure and nerves getting on them, the Fighting Maroons have delivered and fittingly it was fifth-year graduating player Ralph Chua who has sent them to the Final Four after three years.
With the team turning on a new leaf and with the fighting passion a Maroon should have, the men's table tennis squad has ended years of frustration. And they have done that despite some tough competition in the whole division. "Sobrang saya, sobrang saya naming lahat. Maganda ang performance; pinuri kami ni coach kasi maganda 'yung kinalabasan na nagbago lahat ng attitude ng mga players," the captain said. "How we grew as an athlete and as a person."
However, the team will once again had to bid farewell to two student-athletes in the person of Chua and Marco Eludo. Nonetheless, Lamayan shared that the squad is ready to prepare hard for a shot at the title with a vital returnee and good additions. "Babalik na si Cjae Victorio and may mga papasok din naman na malalakas and talented people na passionate din sa pingpong. 'Yun lang gusto namin talaga, 'yung passionate and maganda ang ipapakita."
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