THE UST Judokas dominated the UAAP judo tournament anew, taking home the men’s, women’s and boys’ division titles at the De La Salle Santiago Zobel Sports Pavilion in Alabang last Nov. 11 to 12. 

The Lady Judokas easily grabbed their fourth-straight title with 45 points, including a 4-4-5 gold-silver-bronze medal tally. The University of the East placed second with 32 points.

With the championshipthe Lady Judokas secured their third fourth-straight title run in tournament history. The University of the Philippines did it twice in 2003 and 2011. 

Season 80 Most Valuable Player Almira Ruiz (-57 kg), Jamaika Ponciano (-78 kg), Renielyn Castillo (+78 kg) and Khrizzie Pabulayan (-48 kg) led the charge for UST with gold medals.
Khrishia Rotario (-70 kg), Devrah Devaras (-57 kg) and Kimberly Pantoja (-48 kg) reaped silver while team captain Lorelei Tolentino (-63 kg), Bernadette Carpio (-70 kg), Rhodesa Mae Bayas (-52 kg) and Tracy Honorio (-52 kg) settled for bronze.
“Pinakamasarap sa lahat [ang championship na ito]. Kasi may curse kami na ‘yung last time na dapat mag-four peat, naging fourth place kami. Talagang bangungot samin yung dati. Napakasarap na mabreak yung curse na yun,” Lady Judokas head coach Gerard Arce told the Varsitarian

Arce was referring to Season 76, when UST had the chance to bag four-consecutive titles but miserably crashed to fourth place. 

“Tama naman ang projection namin. Lahat ng prediction tama kasi alam namin ‘yung kapasidad ng kalaban namin. Magaling ang team natin at malakas [kaya] alam kong kaya nila,” Arce added.

UST is on track for a fifth-straight title, but they would have to do it without key players Tolentino, Honorio and Castillo.

“After nito, pahinga muna kami. Study muna, then recruitment ulit or training. Kailangan din namin bantayan ‘yung kalaban kung lalakas,” Arce said. 

In men’s play, UST shared the championship with rival Ateneo de Manila University after finishing an identical 3-2-3 gold-silver-bronze medal tally.

The Male Judokas remained the winningest team in the league with 12 crowns while Ateneo notched its fifth title.

This was the first time two teams shared a judo championship since its inception in 1995.

The UAAP board has yet to decide on whom to give the MVP award and what point scheme to use for the general championship tally due to the twin titles.

After squandering the first-day lead, Male Judokas head coach Steve Esteban lamented on missed opportunities in the medal matches where some of his wards missed on bronze medals.

“Ang daming pagkakataon dahil may mga bronze matches. Kahit one point lang sana makukuha na kaso ‘di natuloy,” Esteban said.

UST had an 18-12 point advantage in the first day before Ateneo stormed back with two gold medals in the second day. 

Season 79 MVP Daryl Mercado (-60 kg) and co-captain Renzo Cazenas (-90 kg) ended their UAAP careers with gold medals while Dither Tablan dominated anew in the +100 kg category.
Team captain Sherwin de Rosa (-60 kg) and Luis San Diego (-81 kg) captured silver medals while Russel Lorenzo (-55 kg), Jeunesse Ong (-73 kg) and Kim George (-100 kg) notched bronze medals for UST. 

De Rosa, Mercado, Ong, Cazenas and Atienza will no longer see action for the Male Judokas in Season 81 after exhausting their playing years.

In juniors’ action, the UE juniors team squeaked past the UST girls’ team by one point to prevent UST from earning back-to-back grand slam titles.