LOADED. Letran table tennis team prepares to smash its opponents on the upcoming NCAA Season 94. Photo by Isaiah Beltrano.
With the painful memory of runner-up finishes in their last year’s National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA) campaign still fresh in their minds, the Letran Table Tennis teams are set to break through the slumps as they approach Season 94.
Coached by former national player Noel Gonzales, both men’s and women’s team have established two goals: reclaim the championship after years of title drought and necessitate a daunting prospect at the ups and downs from last season’s failed bid.
Fueled by the desire to prove themselves as worthy contenders, the men’s team is looking for a
triumphant return to title contention. Taking the reins in his senior year, newly appointed team captain John William Mañago will look to lead the squad to new heights. In his fourth year of invaluable collegiate experience, Mañago aims to set an example for his teammates, on and off the court, in whatever way he can.
“Talagang mas nag-focus kami kasi ang goal talaga ng men’s team is ‘yung championship. Gusto naming bumawi sa Benilde,” Mañago said as lapses were present in their Finals struggle against their perennial rival. His consistency at a high level has been one of the main components of the team’s biggest improvement last year. However, he also explained that
the team got ahead of themselves and was prone to attacking lulls. “As the team captain, sinasabi ko lagi na as much as possible, huwag a-absent sa trainings and maging disciplined,”
he added further.
To compensate for the loss of key player Jethro Gapas and Season 93 team captain Erick Gonzales, new faces will fill in their shoes. Thus, the departure of these veterans
could prove to be the biggest setback that the team will face this season.
The team has brought two dynamic freshmen in Olsehn Obal and Jonathan Aliwalas–the former
is a singles specialist who played for the Squires while the latter is one of the top-ranked high school players of his batch from De La Salle-Lipa. All these additions will be important ingredients in the team’s recipe for success.
Moreover, displaying the true versatility and depth that the Knights have, veterans John Pansacula, Benjiecer Lim, and Noel Dinglasan will make their resurgence to the
Meanwhile in last season’s title run, the tables have turned for the Mark Sabarre who both graduated last March.
“It had a huge effect on our team. We lost two of our best singles players, that’s why some of us needs transition from playing doubles to singles,” overall team captain Melvin Sarao explained, noting the duo’s significance to the team.
Despite the departure of their two veteran players, the team is still expected to perform at a high level with most of their players stepping-up their games. “I can say that their games and playing
styles have improved,” he said. Sarao believes that the team will be putting up a better performance this season, as they now added a day to their sessions and now have the luxury of training in a real badminton court.
“Last year, we spent our trainings in the gymnasium, which was really hard for us because of the setup. [The] flooring and the lines of the court were inaccurate. These factors made it hard for us to adjust in a real game,” he said.
“A huge factor is that this year, we were able to add an additional day for our training. This year, we were able to train on a real Badminton court.” Sarao added. Sarao admits that this season is no walk in the park, but with the mentioned factors in play, the Shuttlers’ skipper vows to give
their best as they continue their mission on bringing back the championship in Intramuros.
“It’s going to be a tough ride but we’ll try our best to win back the title. We will focus more and be more aggressive on court,” he said.
The women’s team, meanwhile, placed fifth overall last tourney; falling one game short for the last semifinals slot. It was however, an improvement for the squad as they ended Season 92 at the sixth spot. This season, the team is locked-in on their goal which is to will their way to the final four and bring the glory home to Letran.
With returnees Fionna Emorecha, Ghia Gutierrez, Jehane Galit, Chinnie Castro, Katya Panopio, Mikee Velasco, and Mica Avelino beefing-up the squad; plus the arrival of two rookies in Jennifer Japson, and Nics Quizon, the team is expected to make noise in the badminton collegiate scene this season.
“I think we are more than ready this season. Hopefully this time, maka-final four kami kasi I have seen the improvement of this team,” she added.
The squad looks to better their performance from last year, and Emorecha swears to never forget their obligation to the Colegio as athletes, despite their hectic academic schedules.
“This time, hihigitan pa namin ang performance namin sa court. Despite of our busy schedule, hindi namin makakalimutan yung obligation namin as an athlete and yung ini-aim namin na makapasok sa final four,” she explained.
Emorecha also shared the key adjustments they made; focusing on the players’ mental toughness and physical skills.
“Recently this summer lang, we had major adjustments and may changes ‘din when it comes to training and disciplining the players. We are currently focusing on strengthening the mind and the physical aspect of every player in our team,” she said.
While the road to triumph may be tougher this year, the Lady Shuttlers share one goal in mind --to enter the final four and win the championship for Letran.
“To be in the final four is not just for our dream, but it also for the Letran community,” she added.