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Seventh Heaven: NU reaches 7th straight Finals with UE drubbing



Since they have tasted what it feels to be in the Finals seven years ago, the National University Bulldogs never let that feeling go.

And with a dominant sweep of the University of the East Red Warriors, 5-0, Thursday morning at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall, the Bulldogs just sealed it seventh consecutive Finals stint.

Team captain Alvin Morada opened the account for the Bustillos-based side with an escape past Benjamin Silva, 21-14, 21-16. The Red Warrior kept in step with the UAAP 77 Rookie of the Year, before the latter pulled away after the respective game intervals.

Keeyan Gabuelo then doubled the edge after giving AJ Manlalangit a rude farewell in the second doubles match. The Season 78 top rookie extended his unbeaten singles run, ending his opponent’s UAAP career on a losing note at 21-10, 21-10.

Clarence Camacho and Kenneth Cruz fought hard for the Recto-based side in the second set of the first doubles match, but Alem Palmares and, of course, Morada would not be denied of clinching the elims sweep. In the end, the Blue and Gold duo took the match at 21-8, 21-16.

The win sent the defending champions to yet another “last dance” stint.

Christian Cuyno and Mike Minuluan made it four-of-four with a two-set annihilation of Robert Barreto and Andre Donesa, 21-7, 21-4. Palmares also proved his worth in singles play, stopping AJ David at 21-6, 17-21, 21-13.

The Bulldogs will have a week’s worth of rest as they await their Finals opponents. On the other hand, the Red Warriors finished at 1-5.



Eyes are dry at the last goodbye: The unbeaten legacy of Bianca Carlos



There are times when winning a championship isn’t enough to define an athlete. Champions come and go, but only few are capable of leaving an indelible mark on a sport or competition.

The UAAP has seen many teams and athletes achieve this in its storied history. The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles went on to win five straight Men’s Basketball titles from 2008 to 2012, while the Adamson University Lady Falcons recently got their seventh consecutive softball crown last March 2017.

In terms of individual athletes, Ateneo swimmer Jessie Lacuna and De La Salle University table tennis star Yan Lariba not only brought glory to their respective schools — they also represented the Philippines in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

One student-athlete who deserves as much esteem as those legendary teams and individuals is Ateneo Women’s Badminton Team star Maria Ysabel Bianca Carlos.

The St. Paul College of Pasig alumna racked up one gold medal, three silvers, and one bronze finish in five playing years alongside individual gongs.

Perhaps what’s most noteworthy about her, though, is the fact that she has never lost a singles bout in her entire UAAP career.

Suiting Up for the Blue and White

UAAP 80 Womens Badminton - UP def ADMU - Carlos (2)

For Carlos, becoming a Lady Eagle was an easy decision. She narrated, “Parang naging automatic na siya eh. I train under sina coach Kennie and Vic Asuncion in Asuncion Badminton Center. Coach na sila ng Ateneo ever since. Coach Vic was a UP coach. Nung lumipat na siya ng Ateneo, doon na kami nag-graduate from high school, Trixie Malibiran and me so sabay kami pumasok ng Ateneo. Batchmates kami sa training so dun namin sinimulan i-recruit nila coach.”

The Interdisciplinary Student shared that the National University had been interested in getting her services before she entered college back in 2013. Former NU coach Jojo Mance tried to talk Carlos into joining the Lady Bulldogs, but Carlos already knew where she wanted to go.

While the blue chip recruit had no problems adjusting in terms of the sport, she admitted that the UAAP was a wholly different playground from what she was used to. “Different siya in terms of yung sa venue na yung crowd, yung cheering at team event siya. When I play outside of Ateneo, it’s just me. Singles or doubles, hindi siya team event. Yung tournament sa labas it’s just you lang eh, unlike sa UAAP na you’re bringing your whole team and your whole school.”

It turned out to be a glorious Season 76 for Ateneo and Carlos. The Lady Eagles swept both the elimination round and the Finals series against De La Salle to defend their crown, while Carlos was deemed Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player that year.

Carlos reminisced, “Hindi ako super na-pressure (noon) kasi alam ko lahat ng kalaban ko senior na eh. Mas gusto ko yan eh na matatanda ang kalaban tapos bata ako tapos kinakalaban ko sila, tinatalo ko sila. Mas masarap sa feeling. Walang pressure sa akin since bago lang ako sa UAAP.”

Mother Knows Best


Season 76 turned out to be the only UAAP title won by Carlos in her Ateneo stint. Ateneo endured three bridesmaid finishes from seasons 77 to 79 at the hands of three-peat champions University of the Philippines, while the recently concluded Season 80 saw the Lady Eagles fall to eventual winners Lady Archers in the semi-finals.

Amidst Ateneo’s consistent podium finishes, though, was the Interdisciplinary Studies student’s spotless singles record. It was as if the Katipunan school was guaranteed one win in every tie because Carlos always delivered.

“Actually hindi ko rin siya ine-expect talaga,” commented the fifth-year student. “Siguro nung mga fourth-year na diyan yung aim mo na wala kang talo. Pero from first year, never kong inexpect talaga because siyempre madaming seniors eh, madaming malakas din so hindi ko siya inexpect.”

Although she was a phenom on the court, Carlos shared that her coaches had never pressured her to go unbeaten in singles bouts during her UAAP run. “Lagi nila sinasabi sa akin na ‘alam naman namin na lagi kang lalaban eh.’ Yun kasi yung attitude na pinasok nila sa akin ever since bata ako na laban ka hanggang sa huli. Whatever happens talaga, laban lang. Puso always.”

While her coaches never pushed her to go unbeaten, Carlos received her marching orders to not lose a singles bout from one of the closest people in her life. “Laging sinasabi ng mom ko na basta don’t drop your singles (match) kahit ano mangyari. Don’t drop your singles. I’m really a singles player talaga eh, never a doubles player.”

In fact, Carlos recounted one story which set her on the way to becoming a titan on the court. “I remember this (incident). Natalo ako eh one time in 2010. Picture-picture kami ng mom ko, chill-chill. Mag-finals na, lalaro na ako. Pinipicturan ako ng mom ko, pose-pose ako. Eh si Gelita Castillo makakalaban ko. Ako yung defending champion pero chill ako sobra. As in tawa ako ng tawa. Pag-laro ko, talo. So after nun pinagalitan ako ng mom ko. Sabi niya, ‘hindi mo na puwede gawin yun.’ Starting nung day na yun, feeling ko totoo na nakakawala siya ng focus ‘pag (relaxed).”

That loss and her mom’s lecture proved to be a blessing in disguise for Carlos, as she has never lost in the 53 singles bouts she participated in for the Lady Eagles in the UAAP.

Down from the Hill

UAAP 80 Women's Badminton (Awarding) - 2nd Runners Up - ADMU

Now that Carlos is done in the UAAP, her main focus is completing her studies. While the veteran lamented the fact that Ateneo had failed to reclaim the crown, she admitted that perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.

The 22-year-old shared that everything felt surreal to her. “Sobrang bilis! Yun yung una kong inisip after ng awarding. Grabe five years na yun. Limang taon na ako naglaro, hindi ko man lang na-feel masyado.”

Carlos explained that she is still unsure of her future after Ateneo, but admitted that a stint in the national team or the option of competing abroad isn’t out of the question. “Siguro by next year, dun na ako mag-join ng major tournaments.”

Ultimately, Carlos knew what she would miss the most about the UAAP. “Sabi ko kanina mahirap yung adjustment sa crowd pero yun yung ma-mimiss ko. Yung tao, they’re cheering for you. Kasi sa ibang tournaments, sakto lang eh. Your teammates are cheering for you. Ito talagang lahat. Kung sinong dadalhin mo ichi-cheer ka talaga nila (basta galing sa) Ateneo. Iba yung feeling. Mamimiss ko rin i-represent ang Ateneo. Ito talaga yung super dream school ko. You play for your dream school, ang sarap sa feeling.”

Carlos is uncertain about what her legacy is to the Blue and White. Then again, her Season 76 championship and individual accolades, three silver finishes, one bronze medal and — most importantly — that unbeaten singles streak are more than enough to hand her recognition in Ateneo’s fabled sports history.

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The Wait is Over: La Salle dethrones UP to regain Women’s Badminton tiara



It has been eight long years, and finally the UAAP women’s badminton title is back in the school nearest the playing venue.

Returning player Nicole Albo was the heroine, as she pulled through in the deciding match, upending Mary Ann Marañon to claim the crown for the De La Salle University Lady Archers, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

The Taft-based squad ceded the first singles match to Poca Alcala. The reigning MVP played with high intensity despite the challenge of Arianne Rivera, 22-20, 21-18.

Iyah Sevilla showed her resilience this time and fended off the momentum of Marina Caculitan in the following singles match, 20-22, 21-12, 21-18.

With the first doubles match turning crucial, graduating Isay Leonardo just wanted to get it done for the Green and White.

“Yun ‘yung maibabalik mo sa La Salle eh, ‘yung ibigay mo yung best mo sa game,” she said. “Tsaka syempre last ko ng laro sa UAAP.”

With that in mind, Leonardo and partner Albo carved a come-from-behind win past Alcala and Jessie Francisco, 21-23, 21-16, 21-17.

The defending champions, however, extended their reign, as UAAP 77 and 78 Rookies of the Year Marañon and Lea Inlayo quashed Sevilla and Lindsay Tercias in just two sets at 21-16, 21-10.

Battling fatigue and cramps, Albo then rose to the challenge and easily took care of Marañon in the first set of the deciding singles match, 21-11.

The UP co-captain showed some signs of life in the early part of the second set; nonetheless, Albo slowly pulled away before pulling the rag off the Fighting Maroons and sending the Lady Archers to the throne at 21-14.

Leonardo was thrilled to exit the UAAP as a champion and shared that the biggest difference this time was, “Mas ginusto talaga naming manalo.”

That determination succeeded, as eight years of agony have finally ended.

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UP levels series with La Salle to force winner-take-all Tie 3



The defending UAAP women’s badminton champions University of the Philippines Lady Maroons know what it takes to rise up from a deficit. With their backs against the wall, the Lady Maroons fought for another chance.

With the strength of the surprising win of team captain Marina Caculitan and the awakening of top player Poca Alcala, the reigning three-peat queens subdued the De La Salle University Lady Shuttlers, 3-1, to push for an all-important tie on Saturday.

According to the UP skipper, the situation even motivated them to defend the throne. “Mas tumapang kami, mas naging close yung team.”

But the most important thing the state brought them was, “We learned from our mistakes.”

That learning was evident from the first two singles matches as Alcala and Caculitan shrugged off missed opprtunities from the last tie and took the 2-0 lead this time.

Alcala bamboozled Arianne Rivera in the first set of the opening singles match at 21-9, before fending off the late challenge of the latter in the second at 21-18. The reigning Most Valuable Player showed composure throughout the entire match, bouncing back once she felt Rivera is on a run.

Such composure was also evident in Caculitan’s contest against Iyah Sevilla. After the Maroon seized the initiative in both sets, the junior La Sallian pulled away late in the frames. Nonetheless, Caculitan held on during the rallies and despite going down 16-20 in either games, still pulled through in the end in two 22-20 sets.

Isay Leonardo and Nicole Albo finally took one past the pesky duo of Ann Maranon and Lea Inlayo. The Maroons tried to mount comebacks, but La Salle pocketed the match at 21-19, 21-19.

However, the day really belonged to the defending champs.

Alcala and Jessie Francisco wasted no time and blasted Lindsay Tercias and Sevilla in two quick sets at 21-15, 21-8, to send both teams to a winner-take-all tie on Saturday.

The Lady Maroons and the Lady Shuttlers take to the court one last time on October 21, Saturday, at 1pm, for the right to be named champions of UAAP Season 80 women’s badminton.

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Iyah Sevilla comes alive, puts La Salle up 1-0 against UP



With momentum on their side, the De La Salle University Lady Shuttlers used it to stun the University of the Philippines in Tie 1 of the UAAP Season 80 women’s badminton Finals.

The Taft-based smashers leaned on the heroics of third-year stalwart Iyah Sevilla to deny the Fighting Maroons the season sweep and make headway in the championship series, Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

Nonetheless, it was batchmate Arianne Rivera who made the biggest news of the day, taking down UP’s top singles player Poca Alcala in three sets at 21-16, 12-21, 21-19. The La Salle junior had to crawl back from a huge deficit in the deciding game to complete the upset of the reigning Most Valuable Player.

For her part, fellow national team member Nicole Albo had to fend off a stunner, as she stopped UP team captain Marina Caculitan in the battle of two lefties also in three sets. The returning Lady Shuttler also carved a similar come-from-behind run in the final game. Albo put La Salle up at 2-0 with 21-11, 14-21, 21-19.

Nonetheless, the reiging queens of UAAP badminton would not be swept.

Alcala and partner Jessie Francisco denied Sevilla and Lindsay Tercias the early clincher after pocketing the first doubles match in another three-setter at 21-14, 18-21, 21-8.

What happened next brought life to the huge UP crowd in attendance.

Despite playing under the weather, both Ann Maranon and Lea Inlayo overcame their condition to finish off Albo and Isay Leonardo in just two sets, 21-10, 21-16; which is a total opposite of the same match in the qualifying round.

Before the day, Sevilla had shrugged off previous losses in the recent ties and focused on the day’s task. She, along with her teammates, were set on just taking the games as they came. The third-year La Sallian said, “Mina-mindset lang ng team to enjoy every game. Walang pressure because we came from third [place].”

With that mentality, the Green and White standout needed just two sets to deny former national team colleague Jessie Francisco in two sets, 21-11, 21-17. The win sent La Salle to a win away from winning their first crown since 2009.

Tie 2 is scheduled on Thursday, October 19, at 1pm as the Lady Shuttlers will try to end the series against the Lady Maroons.

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