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Bernardo, Ateneo sneak past UP, move on to semifinals

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Rookie Hanz Bernardo played like a veteran and steered the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Shuttlers over University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 3–2, to advance to the semifinal against archrivals De La Salle University, Wednesday morning at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

Singles 1: Leonardo (UP) d Remo (ADMU) 21–10, 17–21, 21–10

Feeling confident this time around, UP veteran Miggy Leonardo shook off the challenge of second-year Carlo Remo, who had beaten him the previous year, in three games to take the opener for his team.

Leonardo imposed his court control and forced Remo to save the shuttle from hitting the floor on several instances. At the eighth rally, the Ateneo sophomore lost his footing and could not return the shuttle, conceding the point to UP. Sensing the tentativeness of his opponents’ actions, Leonardo slowly inched to a huge lead before the break, 11–5. After the ceasefire, Remo fired two consecutive smashes to cut the lead to three, 8–11, but he squandered a pair of points off errors to give the comfortable advantage back to his counterpart. From there, Leornardo never looked back and a well-placed drop clinched him the game, 21–10.

In the following game, Remo was the one who took charge at the start as errors piled up for the fourth-year Maroon. However, miscues of his own kept the game close at the interval, 8–11. The woes continued for Ateneo and UP snatched the lead 12–11. Knowing the importance of this match, Remo made adjustments on his play to close out the game. The Blue Shuttler was able to limit Leonardo to single points and consequently levelled the match at one game, 21–17.
Just as how he started the opening frame, Leonardo pounced on Remo’s game and forced the latter to commit errors with his aggressiveness. The UP veteran also used a combination of drop shots and smashes to build a huge 11–2 advantage. Remo tried to keep the game close with his own overhead shots and timely lobs, but errors hounded him up to the deciding game. A kill and another drop secured the victory and the lead for UP, 21–10.

Singles 2: Filart (ADMU) d Lopez (UP) 16–21, 21–11, 21–18

Taking unfamiliar territory as second singles players, both Clarence Filart of Ateneo and Joseph Lopez of UP were unfazed with the challenge. After three gruelling games, it was the Blue Shuttlers’ Captain who took the match over the second-year Lopez.

Knowing of his opponent’s length advantage, Lopez romped ahead in the first game with well-placed shots to disrupt the rhythm of Filart and forced the latter to errors. The national junior mainstay thus slowly pulled ahead into the break, 11–5. Getting back his confidence at the resumption of the match, the Ateneo skipper turned it around and cut the deficit to just two, 11–13. Nonetheless, this two-point lead was enough for Lopez to keep Filart at bay and took the game, 21–16.

The momentum near the tailend of the first game fuelled Filart to be more aggressive in the second. As a result, two powerful smashes pushed Ateneo to the interval, 11–5. Lopez struggled in this game as he only scored on miscues by Filart. The Ateneo veteran took the second game with relative ease, 21–11, to force another deciding game.

In the final frame, Lopez jumped to an early lead after Filart’s attacks sailed out. Making chances on his approach, the Ateneo junior then snared six straight points to get to within two of court change. UP had other plans, however, as the sophomore replied with his own 5–0 run to get to the break. It was a see-saw battle after the interval before Lopez went ahead 15–13. Two consecutive wayward shots from UP were enough for Filart to wrestle the lead, 18 –16. A beautiful drop shot gave Ateneo the match point, and Filart finished the match with another kill, 21–18.

Doubles 1: Bernardo/Remo (ADMU) d Malelang/Leonardo 21–14, 21–14

In the pivotal first doubles match, the tandem of Remo and rookie Hanz Bernardo quashed the veteran duo of Leonardo and Jojo Malelang in two consecutive games to gain the upper hand for the day.

Remo and Bernardo rose to a fiery start at 6–1 using a variety of power and placement before UP leveled the game countering with the same brand of play. The two pairs exchanged points, but two service faults from Leonardo and Malelang gave Ateneo the narrow lead at the interval, 11–10. From there, Bernardo, with ample support from his partner Remo, took over the game and peppered the UP duo with quick returns. The Maroons could not get their own game going and settled for points off their opponent’s errors. Another faulty service from Leonardo sealed his team’s doom and conceded the first game to the Blue and White, 21–14.

In the second game, Ateneo continued their dominance in all fronts and mounted a huge 7–1 lead that they were able to extend to 11–4 at the interval. Remo and Bernardo threatened to blow the game wide open as they strung five consecutive points as the advantage ballooned to 10, 5–15. Being the veterans, Leonardo and Malelang tried to take the one point at a time and went to within four, 11–15. An exchange of points ensued before two smashes from Bernardo clinched the game and the tie lead for Ateneo at a similar 21–14 score line.

Doubles 2: Pineda/Manuel (UP) d Mangubat/Bagasbas (ADMU) 21–17, 21–18

Once again, the season for the Fighting Maroons was in the hands of Betong Pineda and Vinci Manuel in the second doubles. And for the umpteenth time, they pulled through after fending off a pair of Ateneo rookies in Jan Mangubat and Fides Bagasbas in two games.

Despite the strong challenge of Bagasbas and Mangubat at the start of the opening frame, UP managed to force their opponents to commit errors with quick movements and shots. Manuel and Pineda took the lead at the interval, 11–6. However, a couple of errors from the Maroons gave Ateneo a chance on the game. With the door slightly opened, the upstarts from Loyola Heights took advantage and trimmed the deficit to four, 11–15. From there, UP resumed with their swift offense and moved ahead of Ateneo. A well-timed smash from Manuel clinched the first game for the Maroons, 21–17.

The second game was no different as the final portion of the first as both teams exchanged rallies and points before Ateneo took the lead this time, 11–9, at the interval. Two straight points from Bagasbas and Mangubat after the ceasefire woke up the Maroons as they levelled the game at 14. After coming out from the deadlock first, Manuel and Pineda did not relinquish the lead further and emphatically sent the tie into the final singles with three straight points, 21 –18.

Singles 3: Bernardo (ADMU) d Clemente (UP) 21–11 21–17.

With this playoff tie taking a similar route as their qualifying round meeting, it was up to either Bernardo or CK Clemente to extend their respective team’s season in the finals singles.

It was a tough task for Clemente, however, who has not played a singles match in his UAAP career. Bernardo, on the other hand, was also fielded in one-on-one play for the entire season. That proved to be crucial as the Ateneo rookie zoomed past his more senior counterpart in the first game. Bernardo forced Clemente into several errors and sent the latter back all high balls he was given. Ateneo cruised into the lead at the break, 5–11. Miscues after miscues piled up for the Maroon junior as Bernardo’s advantage went up to as high as 11, 7–18. Three smash kills from Clemente was not enough to push him back into the game and Ateneo won it 21–11.

This regained confidence, however, was not wasted as the three-year veteran got a 4–3 lead to start off the second game. Bernardo then wrestled the lead into the interval, 11–8, but now knowing Clemente was just hot off his trails. The Atenean then put the pedal to the metal in order to keep the game out of reach with three straight points to gain a comfortable 18–13 lead. The Fighting Maroon then used what is left on his tank and mounted rally to cut the deficit to four, 16–20. The lead was further trimmed after Bernardo was given a red card on misconduct and the score went to just 20–17. The rookie hero would not be denied on the next rally, however, as he forced his national team colleague to an error and took the match for Ateneo, 21–17.

With the win, the Blue Shuttlers advance to the semifinals on Saturday, October 10, against De La Salle University at 8am. The Green Shuttlers have the twice-to-beat advantage in that round. If Ateneo wins the Saturday tie, the knockout tie is scheduled the following day at the same time.

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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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