Coach Jojo fielded a line-up that designated Joper Escueta and Peter Magnaye as the first two singles players and first doubles team for the National University Bulldogs. Escueta and Magnaye were the only shuttlers needed by the team in a 3-match, 6-game sweep of the De La Salle Green Shuttlers in Game 1 of the UAAP Men’s Badminton Finals.
Men’s Singles Match 1: Philip Joper Escueta (NU) def. John Kenneth Monterubio; 2:0
NU 1 – 0 DLSU
Former UAAP Most Valuable Player Joper Escueta faced-off against ever-reliable Green Shuttler, John Kenneth Monterubio in the opening contest of this year’s Finals series. The first half of the initial game saw the former MVP and Monterubio exchange points via drops and unforced errors. The game would be close with Escueta clinging on a 1 point lead over Monterubio prior to the 11th point break. After the break, the powerful Escueta would only allow 5 points from his opponent. Escueta’s powerful smashes would be the difference-maker in the game as he would take the 1st game 21-16.
With all the momentum on his side, Escueta hammered on the demoralized Monterubio.The Green Shuttler was forced to many errors during the 1st half of the set going down 11-7. Escueta’s strong returns would still force Monterubio to erroneous backhands and drops. The strength of Escueta also forced 11 shuttlecock changes in the course of the entire match. In the end, the former UAAP MVP would take another set, this time with a score of 21-12.
Aggregate Score: Escueta 42 – J. Monterubio 28
Total Match Time: 63 mins
Men’s Singles Match 2: Peter Gabriel Magnaye (NU) def. Gerald Sibayan (DLSU); 2:0
NU 2 – 0 DLSU
For the 2nd match of the Game 1 of this year’s finals, it was former UST star shuttler Peter Magnaye going heads-up against UAAP Season 75 Rookie of the Year, the burly Gerald Sibayan.
Peter Magnaye would storm to an early 13-5 lead over Gerald Sibayan. That stretch saw Magnaye showcase his uncanny athleticism with various high smashes that Sibayan would fail to return. Escueta would force Sibayan to his pace which is far from the usual game of Sibayan. Instead of being the one setting up for smashes, it was Sibayan who was chasing the shuttlecock for lobs that would eventually lead to a Magnaye score. Magnaye would take the 1st 21-12.
The 2nd set would again see Magnaye impose his will on Sibayan. Magnaye would jump to an 11-6 lead utilizing some excellent returns and court generalship. Magnaye would delve away from his usual mid services to a high one to tire Sibayan out. The strategy would extend the Magnaye lead 18-11. Sibayan, inspired by the cheers of the crowd would make a small burst to cut the Magnaye lead to just 3 points 18-15. However, it would fall short as Magnaye would utilize his defensive instincts to win the game 21-16 and the match.
Aggregate Score: Magnaye 42 – Sibayan 28
Total Match Time: 35 mins
Men’s Doubles Match 1: Philip Joper Escueta and Peter Gabriel Magnaye (NU) def. Gerald Sibayan and Carlos Antonie Cayanan (DLSU); 2:0
NU 3 – 0 DLSU (NU takes Game 1)
The two best doubles’ teams in the UAAP Men’s Badminton tournament this season faced-off for the 1st doubles match of the series. It was the two leading candidates for this year’s MVP race Joper Escueta and Peter Magnaye pitted against the yin-and-yang duo of Gerald Sibayan and Carlos Cayanan.
Gerald Sibayan, drawing inspiration from the cheers of the crowd and his loved ones in attendance, would lead the DLSU tandem to an early 10-7 over the highly-heralded pair from Jhocson Street. That would be the last time Sibayan and Cayanan would hold the lead in the entire contest. The back and forward strategy of Escueta and Magnaye was the perfect foil for the speed of Cayanan and the strength of Sibayan. Both NU shuttlers would exchange excellent smashes, leading to a 1st game routing 21-14.
The 2nd set saw Magnaye and Escueta jump to a huge 17-9 lead during the 1st 10 minutes of the game. It was visible through-out the match that Joper Escueta has gotten into the head of Sibayan. For every erroneous return that Sibayan would have, Escueta would shout “wa-cha”, the trademark of Sibayan, to playfully mock the shuttler. Moreover, the athleticism of Escueta and Magnaye stymied the cat-like quickness of Carlos Cayanan. Cayanan would be a none factor in the entire match. Magnaye and Escueta would sweep both sets, 21-14 in the deciding game, in a masterful, all-around performance.
Aggregate Score: Magnaye and Escueta 42 – Sibayan and Cayanan 28
Total Match Time: 30 mins
With the win, the National University Bulldogs are just one win away from recapturing the championship they lost last season. In addition, winning on Sunday would be a chance to immortalize the uber-athletic team with the team going unbeaten all throughout the tournament. On the other hand, the De La Salle University Green Shuttlers will need to win a total of 9 matches to upset the #1 seeded team in the UAAP and win the tournament.