MANILA, Philippines — Drawing inspiration from Ian Lariba, the De La Salle University Lady Paddlers retained the crown in the UAAP Season 80 women’s table tennis tournament.
The Lady Paddlers needed three games to overcome University of Santo Tomas (UST) and win the crown for the fourth consecutive season.
After dropping the championship opener, 2-3, that ended a 14-game winning run, La Salle was able to bounce back in the next two to beat the Tigresses via identical 3-1 scores to win the series.
Emy Rose Dael, who took over from Lariba, won her second straight MVP award, while giving Jamaica Sy and Mardeline Carreon a grand send-off to their collegiate careers.
La Salle, which clinched its fifth women's championship in the last six years, drew inspiration for this season's campaign from Lariba, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) last May and is still recovering in the hospital.
Rio Olympian Lariba was instrumental for the Lady Paddlers' dynasty and was a part of coaching staff last season.
Ateneo de Manila University's Joana Chen bagged the Rookie of the Year honors.
In the men’s division, National University made history by claiming their first-ever title, ending UST’s reign with a 3-1 victory in the deciding Finals.
NU defeated UST, 3-2, in the opener for the Tigers got a lifeline after scoring a 3-2 win Game 2.
It was a double celebration for NU as it boy's team won the back-to-back championship after blanking UST in the do-or-die match, 3-0, with Stephen John Deiz emerging as MVP.
UST's girls’ team, meanwhile, completed a perfect season capped by a 3-1 conquest of De La Salle-Zobel.