La Salle jins capture UAAP Men’s Taekwondo title
By Olmin Leyba
La Salle beat a badly depleted University of Santo Tomas, 6-1, to clinch its first title in nearly a decade and spoil the Tigers’ three-peat bid yesterday in the 73rd UAAP men’s taekwondo tourney at The Arena.
Already ahead by 2-0 in the seven-to-play, race-to-four match-up with UST unable to field replacements for injured finweight Karl Espiritu (dislocated elbow) and flyweight Nicole Mapilisan (ACL), the Archers secured the needed two wins against the Tigers to sweep the elims and claim the outright title.
Bantamweight Wilson Dumo edged UST’s Paul Romero in sudden death, 1-0, but the Thomasians stayed alive with John Paul Garcia’s 8-2 win over John Amiel Velecina at featherweight.
Lightweight Xavier Philippe Stepanek sealed the triumph for La Salle when he scored on a head kick in the dying seconds to escape with a controversial 7-6 win over UST’s Dane Pio de Roca.
UST coach Dindo Simpao protested the three points credited to Stepanek, claiming there was no head kick but after a lengthy deliberation, the officials stuck to their ruling.
The Tiger jins conceded the last two matches of the showdown, settling for second place behind the unbeaten Archers (5-0) with 4-1.
“We really gave it our best and put up a very good team. It’s not easy to go up against an excellent team like UST,” said DLSU coach Stephen Fernandez, whose wards won their first men’s crown since 2001 and seventh overall. “We’re very thankful that things turned out well for us after almost 10 years.”
It also helped that UST played without the Asiad-bound Mapilisan and Espiritu, who suffered their injuries in the first day of action.
“That (injuries) worked to our favor, although we didn’t wish them to be injured. We’re lucky and we really worked hard for this,” Fernandez said.