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Depleted NU clinches 5-peat

The journey might not have been smooth, but National University’s “Drive for Five” was accomplished.

Down a jin for the entire competition, the Bulldogs annexed their fifth consecutive University Athletics Association of the Philippines men’s taekwondo title after defeating the University of Santo Tomas in a “virtual championship contest,” 4-3, on Wednesday at the Marikina Sports Complex.

The title is the first for the school this season after runner-up finishes in men’s badminton, and men’s and women’s beach volleyball tourneys.

Heading into the final series of the season, the Tiger Jins were undefeated with a 4-0 record and had an automatic 1-0 lead in the series while the Bulldogs suffered a disappointing 3-4 defeat against the De La Salle University Green Jins, thus putting championship repercussions in their tussle.

With NU down one match to two, eventual Season Most Valuable Player and featherweight (under-68 kg) gold medalist, Nusair Lao, set up the heroics of Sturdy Gilbuena and Carl Louie Ayaton with a dominant finish of Tiger Jin Reyvin Villanueva, 2-0 (6-0, 15-2).

“We set a mindset that we will just follow the instructions of our coaches even if we’re missing one player. We’re glad that everything that we worked hard for is worth it,” said Lao, a 23-year-old sophomore from Pagadian City.

Gilbuena and Ayaton, who ultimately bagged the lightweight (under-74) and the welterweight (under-80 kg) golds, then took the next two matches for the Bulldogs to seal the victory.

The Season 82 Rookie of the Year-MVP Gilbuena took care of his eventual silver medalist John Kim Pasion, 2-1 (2-1, 5-0, 0-0 on superiority), while Ayaton clinched the championship in style with a 2-0 (14-4,4-0) win over Mark Arby Gariega.

Eventual middle/heavyweight (over-80 kg) gold medalist Israel Cantos bagged the final match for UST, 2-0 (8-3, 5-0) against NU’s Gabriel Soria, but the championship already went the Bulldogs’ way.

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