The underdogs have risen from their long despair.
After years and years of utility previously and a breakthrough season last year, the National University Lady Bulldogs snapped this futility and entered this season’s Final Four – their first-ever appearance – after upending last season’s third-placers Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
It was a sweet moment for NU as they came back twice in the tie before second-year stalwart Jiselle Capillo re-wrote the history books.
Fifth-year Michal Duquilla played with all her might and overpowered Mitzi Pantoja in the first singles match at 21-15, 21-18. The Lady Tam stalwart rained her opponents with powerful smashes and occasional drops that caught the latter off-guard.
Marinel Diansay then made amends for her batchmate and leveled the tie for the Lady Bulldogs after her win of the second singles match. The second-year NU upstart came from behind to deny Irish Molina the opening game at 23-21. In the second game, it was all from the Lady Bulldog as she attacked from all parts of the court, leaving Molina flatfooted.
In the first doubles match Duquilla once more stood her ground for her Lady Tams as she and her partner fourth-year Maridel Rivera outlasted NU’s more veteran members, Jhayvin Dizon and Kezziah Culiao, in two tight games, 22-20, 21-18. The FEU pair proved more consistent towards the tailend of both matches en route to game-clinching attacks.
Capillo and Diansay, however, had no plans of backing down and quickly subdued Klowie Garcia and Molina, 21-12, 21-13. The Lady Tams duo could not clinch the tie for the UAAP season 78 bronze medalists as they had no answer for the Bulldogs’ well-executed plays.
With that, Capillo must go through another battle in the deciding singles match.
Rivera, who took the longer rest, controlled the early part of the first game. However, when errors piled up for the senior FEU player, it left a door open for Capillo to get on. Indeed, the second-year Lady Bulldog’s momentum grew as she got the opening frame at 21-13.
Capillo threatened to put an early end to the match and, consequently, the tie after taking a huge 14-5 lead. With Rivera on her heels, the inexperience of the NU sophomore showed as she squandered the advantage. It was a see-saw battle before aggressive plays paid off for Capillo, ending the match, with a clever push shot to the end line, as she knelled down from sheer joy.
The second-year had just sent the Lady Bulldogs to the semifinals.
The Lady Bulldogs face last year’s runners-up Ateneo de Manila University Lady Blue Shuttlers at 1pm tomorrow at the same venue for the Final Four’s first round. The winner will face #2 seed De La Salle University Lady Green Shuttlers, Wednesday afternoon.