RIZAL MEMORIAL BADMINTON HALL, MANILA CITY – The top-seeded, unbeaten UP Lady Maroons faced-off against the UAAP Season 76 Women’s Badminton Champions in a gruelling 5 match encounter in the 1st game of the women’s finals challenge. All 5 matches in the initial series of the finals logged-in a total of 3 hours and 48 minutes of court-time. In the end, it was clutch super-rookie Jessie Francisco defeating ADMU’s Dia Magno in a classic 2nd set in the 5th match to give the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons a 1-0 lead against the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Shuttlers.
Women’s Singles Match 1: Ma. Isabel Bianca Carlos (ADMU) def. Paola Beatriz Bernardo (UP); 2:1
UP 0 – 1 ADMU
The top-candidate for Most Valuable Player in the UAAP Women’s badminton tournament Bianca Carlos was matched against Palarong Pambansa 2013 gold medalist Paola Bernardo in the opening match of the women’s badminton finals.
Bianca Carlos would outplay Paola Bernardo right out, storming to an early 6-0 lead in the opening moment of the 1st set. The Carlos lead would balloon to 11-3 before the break. Throughout the 1st set, Bernardo looked nervous that greatly affected her style of play. Carlos’ pendings confused Bernardo resulting to erroneous returns and positioning lapses. Carlos won the 1st set 21-11.
The coaches gave a long pep talk to Bernardo prior to the 2nd set. Whatever they told Bernardo worked as Paola Bernardo stood toe-to-toe against the former MVP. After being down 5-0 in the early parts of the set, Bernardo would string a 9-0 run to gain the lead, her first lead in the match. Bianca Carlos would counter with a series of drops and calculated smashes to regain the lead by the break 11-10. After the break, Bernardo would go point-for-point with Carlos. The exchange included excellent returns from both player. The game would be tied at 16-all before Bernardo would try to break the game at 19-17. Bernardo would fail to close out Carlos after 3 errors, forced and unforced, to give Carlos a 20-19 lead. A Bernardo excellent return would tie the game at 20. All throughout the set, Carlos would not scream her signature shout while Bernardo looked at ease in keeping up with ADMU’s lady shuttler. In the end, Bernardo would upset Carlos in the 2nd set 23-21 to tie the match.
Again, the two lady shuttlers duked it out in the deciding game for the match. The game would be tied at 9-all before Carlos took a marginal 11-9 lead before the break. A tired Bea Bernardo would come out of the sideline. She would not be able to keep up with the aggressive pace of Carlos. Carlos would slowly break-away with excellent drops and lobs to give her the set 21-16 and give ADMU the match point.
Aggregate Score: Carlos 63 – Bernardo 50
Total Match Time: 50 mins
Women’s Singles Match 2: Mary Ann Maranon (UP) def. Patrisha Edrika Malibiran (ADMU); 2:0
UP 1 – 1 ADMU
Rookie Mary Ann Maranon was matched against sophomore shuttler Trixie Malibiran in the 2nd match of game 1. Ateneo’s Malibiran has been the wildcard for the defending champions. A win in Malibiran’s singles matches would almost always result to an Ateneo series win.
The initial set saw the lady shuttlers commit a series of errors to keep things close going to the 11th point break with Maranon holding a slim 11-8 lead over Malibiran. After the break, Malibiran could not contain the speed of Maranon. Maranon’s quick pace countered the overpowering style of Malibiran in the set. The Lady Maroon would take a 17-12 lead with an array of excellent drops. Malibiran would try to make a comeback but would not gain any momentum after committing various errors. Maranon won the 1st set 21-18.
In the 2 sets between Maranon and Malibiran, Malibiran would not find her footing all throughout. It was amplified in the 2nd set. Mary Ann Maranon would blast Malibiran in the early going with an 11-6 lead. Malibiran could only score in spurts, mainly due to miscalculated returns from Maranon. Even with the score close, Trixie Malibiran would not find her groove in the closing moments of the set. Maranon would close out the match with a 2nd set 21-16 win.
Aggregate Score: Maranon 42 – Malibiran 34
Total Match Time: 40 mins
Women’s Doubles Match 1: Dia Nicole Magno and Bianca Ysabel Carlos (ADMU) def. Jessie Francisco and Maria Elisha Ongcuangco (UP); 2:0
UP 1 – 2 ADMU
Coach Asuncion would tweak the doubles line-up for the defending champions. The usual line-up for Ateneo would be the sophomore tandem of Carlos and Malibiran. This time, Carlos would be paired with Dia Magno while the other half of the tandem, Malibiran, would be paired with Cassandra Lim.
The strategy used by the pair from Diliman was to direct all their returns to Dia Magno. This proved successful midway through the 1st set as the tandem of Francisco and Ongcuangco took a 14-10 lead over Carlos and Magno. Noticing the strategy, a tilted Magno would lead the ADMU squad by becoming more aggressive. She would return every up lob and drop with an excellent strong push. Magno would be credited with 10 of the last 14 points of the game. Carlos and Magno take the 1st game 21-17.
The 2nd game would still be close at the start with the game tied at 8-all. Carlos would then convert on 2 excellent drops, including a close-to-the-line excellent return. Francisco would be warned with a yellow card for delaying the game in an argument with umpire Espinosa about the call. With both UP shuttlers on tilt, Carlos would take advantage of the situation with excellent lobs to blow the game wide open leading to a 21-13 win for the blue side.
Aggregate Score: Carlos and Magno 42 – Francisco and Ongcuangco 29
Total Match Time: 40 mins
Women’s Doubles Match 2: Marina Caculitan and Mary Ann Maranon (UP) def. Cassandra Grace Lim and Patrisha Edrika Malibiran (ADMU); 2:1
UP 2 – 2 ADMU
In a grueling 58-minute match in the second doubles match in the UAAP Women’s Badminton Finals challenge, it was the resilient team of Marina Caculitan and Mary Ann Maranon defeating the tandem of Cassandra Lim and Trixie Malibiran.
The 1st set saw the team of Cassandra Lim and Trixie Malibiran fall to a huge 17-10 hole against Caculitan and Maranon. The lady shuttlers from Katipunan would not recover in the match to drop the 1st set 21-15. Lim and Malibiran would recover in the 2nd set with Cassie Lim leading the way. With her length, the lanky Lim would connect on various drops and low returns to grab a huge 16-2 lead over the UP pair. Lim and Malibiran would win the set 21-9 to tie the match-up
In the 3rd set, Marina Caculitan and Mary Ann Maranon would make one final push after being down 10-5 early on. They would score on 10 straight points, largely in part to errors from Malibiran, to grab the lead 15-10. Caculitan and Maranon would continue put on the pressure on Malibiran by directing all their returns to her. Maranon and Caculitan would take the set 21-14 to force a deciding 5th match.
Aggregate Score: Caculitan and Maranon 51 – Lim and Malibiran 50
Total Match Time: 58 mins
Women’s Singles Match 3: Jessie Francisco (UP) def. Dia Nicole Magno (ADMU); 2:0
UP 3 – 2 ADMU (UP takes Game 1 of the Finals)
Jessie Francisco was not the designated closer for the Lady Maroons during the start of the season. But as the season went on, Coach Malvin Alcala and his coaching staff trusted her with the position, largely in part to her uncanny calmness even in the big moments. The clutch Jessie Francisco showed the audience at the badminton hall why she is one of the top rookies for this season.
Magno would be down 5-nil in the early parts of the 2nd set, She would then bully her way to powerful push returns to tie the game at 8 and eventually take 11-8 at the 11th point break. Jessie Francisco would use her length to her advantage after the break. Instead of positioning herself near the net, Francisco would take the center of her side of the court to nail excellent crosscourt returns that Magno would fail to return. A frustrated Magno would lose the 1st set to the super rookie from Diliman 21-18.
After going point-for-point in the first half of the 2nd game, Francisco would cling on to a solitary point lead going into the break. Magno would then utilize various drop returns that Francisco would fail to return to take a huge 18-13 lead. Magno knew that an Ateneo loss here would be a huge crush to their bid to retain the women’s badminton crown. The ever-stoic Francisco, however, would not lose her morale. Francisco would force Magno into erroneous returns with her razor sharp returns to tie the game at 18. The game would then go to a deuce at 20 with both shuttlers giving it their all. The next exchanges would be a sight-to-behold. Francisco would take the lead 22-21 after a successful dive that eventually led to a successful drop. Not to be outdone, Magno would also make an excellent diving return to tie the match again at 22. Magno however would commit two straight errors, an erroneous service and a miscalculated return. With that, Jessie Francisco would win the game 24-22 and sweep Dia Magno 2:0.
Aggregate Score: Francisco 45 – Magno 40
Total Match Time: 40 min
With the win, the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons is just one win away from bagging the UAAP Women’s Badminton Championship. Moreover, with a win on Wednesday, they would sweep the entire season just like the NU Bulldogs did in the Men’s Badminton division.
On the other hand, the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Shuttlers need to win 9 matches in total to successfully defend their championship. But first they have to win 3 on Wednesday against a deep UP squad.
The next game for the UAAP Women’s Badminton Finals Challenge would be on Wednesday, 1pm at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
*Erratum: We made the mistake of naming Coach Gian Manuel as the coach for the UP Lady Maroons. The head coach of the team is Coach Malvin Alcala while Cocah Gian Manuel is the physical and strengthening coach of the UP Fighting Maroons.