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Bernardo and the Lady Maroons: Doing it for UP

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After surviving the challenge of last year’s rivals Ateneo de Manila University and getting that outright Finals berth, Tiebreakertimes caught up with the UP Lady Maroons Team Captain Bea Bernardo for her reactions and thoughts on the team’s chances at the title.

As reigning champions, Bernardo, a third year Sports Science major, admitted that they were feeling the pressure at the start of the season. She had her own personal battle with that feeling, evident in her first match of the season against Far Eastern University’s Thea Pomar. The third-year veteran said “Parang ako, hindi ko alam yung gagawin ko. Medyo may pagka-blangko pa ko. Buti nung second set medyo naka-survive. Buti na lang nakabangon din.” Bernardo overcame the setback and went on to win all of her matches despite facing strong opposition in La Salle’s Iya Sevilla and Ateneo’s Cassie Lim.

Every tie is important in UP’s journey to a title defense and the most important is the last hurdle — the pairing against Ateneo. The pressure mounted for the titleholders, but the Captain was in control. Bernardo told her teammates before the game, “Chill lang. Gawin lang [natin to] for UP and have fun lang. Win or lose, OK naman.” What followed showed their determination to win the tie. The Lady Maroons came back from a match down to win it and sweep the qualifying round. It was Bernardo who steered the ship back to the Finals with her champion performance that day.

However, the skipper also shared her despair after one of strongest doubles pairs, both of team and country, Lea Inlayo and Jessie Francisco suffered a gripping loss against Ateneo’s Geva De Vera and Janel Dihiansan. She exclaimed, “Nung una ang sakit ng puso ko, kasi gusto ko na silang manalo. As in, gusto ko ng umiyak nung natalo sila.” From there, Bernardo and co-captain Elisha Ongcuangco took matters in their own hands and salvaged their automatic slot in the Finals.

What really worked for the two UP juniors in their crucial doubles match? Bernardo replied, “Yung inisip ko na lang ‘nun, gawin naming for UP and para sa kanila.” Tactically, she and Ongcuangco did what their coaches asked them to. That, along with their teamwork, turned out to be productive as they won their match and, consequently, sent their squad back into the championship round. In that all-important battle, the skipper kept on telling her batchmate that, “Tiwala lang sa sarili. Sinasabihan ko siya ng mahal ko siya. ‘May tiwala ako sa ‘yo.’”

Trust — an important factor in a team play. Badminton, despite being organically an individual sport, is just as much a team one – more so in the UAAP format. And this crucial ingredient is what the UP Lady Maroons will be carrying on their road to a back-to-back title. When asked how UP will be preparing for the Finals, Bernardo shared that the team is working on their chemistry on and off the court. “Tuloy pa rin ang training, ‘ta’s kaunting sakripisyo pa. Nagbo-bond din naman kasi. Tiwala lang sa sarili and gawin lang for UP.”

Despite the pressure of retaining the title, Bernardo says the key to the fight is this: “Ang importante, mag- enjoy.”

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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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