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Ateneo dismantles La Salle’s advantage, arranges Finals rematch with UP

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Last year’s finalists, Ateneo de Manila University Lady Blue Shuttlers, erased a twice-to-win disadvantage after registering a similar 3–1 victory against second-seeds De La Salle University Lady Green Shuttlers and booked their place in the title round against University of the Philippines Lady Maroons, Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

Second-year player Arianne Rivera set the tone for her squad in a straight-games win against Ateneo’s Cassie Lim. Matching her opponent’s length, Rivera turned to her aggressiveness to get ahead in the first game. After a tight start at the frame, the sophomore pulled ahead at the break with a precarious one-point lead, 11–10. Lim tried to keep the game close after the ceasefire, but errors spelled the Atenean’s doom, as Rivera walked away with the first game, 21–18. Rivera continued her momentum in the following game and mounted a comfortable 11–7 into the interval. Lim slowly crawled back into the game and cut the deficit to two, 11–13. From there, Rivera did not look back and closed out the match, 21–11.

In the second singles match, Ateneo’s Bianca Carlos continued her own dominant run in singles play as she disposed off rookie Iya Sevilla in two games. The third-year veteran used a variety of attacks to waylay the young upstart. If not for Carlos’ miscues, the Atenean could be leading by a huge margin into the break. Sevilla attempted to make a good account of herself, but Carlos finished off the game, 21–12. The rookie was able to keep the opening part of the second game close until four straight points from Carlos gave the latter a comfortable margin heading into the interval, 11–8. A 3–0 run after the break for Carlos made it difficult for Sevilla to salvage the match. Ateneo took the game and the match, 21–15, to level the tie at 1 game apiece.

The very experienced tandem of Aires Montilla and Kristelle Salatan returned to the court for La Salle against the in-form duo of Geva De Vera and Janel Dihiansan. Montilla and Salatan imposed their imprint on the match early on, despite the strong resistance from the Ateneo pair. After allowing De Vera and Dihiansan to get within two, La Sallle continuously forced their opponents to make errors and scored on a variety of attacks of their own to get the game, 21–13. In the following game, La Salle targeted De Vera, and noticing this, Dihiansan stepped up to bring her team back in the game. It bore fruit as Ateneo led at the break, 11–8. At the resumption of the game, Montilla and Salatan threatened to clinch the match leading 17–16, but Ateneo had other plans as they moved on to game point and eventually leveled the match, 21–18. In the deciding game, both pairs exchanged points, only La Salle moved ahead to 15–9. Ateneo then changed gears and forced their opponents to errors and cut the deficit to 14–17. De Vera and Dihiansan dug deep and pulled off a wild comeback to end the match and get the tie advantage for Ateneo with a 7 –0 run, 21–17.

It was up to the combo of Lim and Carlos to close the tie for Ateneo in the second doubles. Once more, the veteran duo delivered and sent La Salle’s Alyssa Leonardo and Nicole Albo packing after three gruelling games. Aching to get back Ateneo, Leonardo and Albo waxed to a hot start, even though the Lady Blue Shuttlers kept it close at the break, 11–9. Four straight points for the La Sallians after the interval was enough for the pair to take the first game comfortably, 21–13. In the following game, Lim and Carlos changed their strategy to a more aggressive one, and it worked. La Salle was able to get the advantage at the break once more, but the Ateneans slowly gained their composure in the course of the canto. Trailing 10–15 after the ceasefire, Carlos and Lim tied the game at 15, and kept it close. A smash from Albo sent La Salle to match point, but an error from the rookie forced a deuce. After another kill from Albo, and Ateneo took it from there to close the game, 24–22. Carlos and Lim pulled all stops in the deciding game and led by as much as five, 11–6, at the court change. La Salle, however, tried to mount their own comeback and strung up four straight points to keep themselves in the match. However, an error on the drive from Leonardo sealed the deal for the Blue and White, 21–19.

With the win, the Lady Blue Shuttlers secured their fifth straight Finals appearance and their third consecutive with ace player and former Rookie of the Year – Most Valuable Player Bianca Carlos. The Ateneans will face the UP Lady Maroons, who owns the thrice-to-beat advantage via an elimination sweep. The titanic Battle of Katipunan and rematch of last year’s Finals will begin on Wednesday, October 14, at the same venue.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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