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Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men’s Badminton title, ends NU’s dominance


After ending National University’s 60-tie winning streak last Wednesday, Ateneo de Manila University made sure to finish the job four days later.

Behind a brave stand by freshman Lance Vargas, the Blue Eagles ended the Bulldogs’ seven-season run at the top of UAAP Men’s Badminton, escaping with a 3-2 victory in the Final, in front of a jam-packed crowd inside the Centro Atletico Badminton Center in Cubao, Quezon City.

Vargas, the No. 4 ranked men’s singles player in the country, denied No. 2 shuttler, Mark Velasco, in a thrilling final game to bag the match and the championship at 10-21, 21-9, 21-13, for the Blue Eagles’ sixth UAAP title and the first since Season 76.

After losing the opening set and rebounding in the second, Vargas raced to an 11-8 lead at the changeover and never looked back.

The 19-year-old shuttler eventually finished the match with an emphatic short drive to Velasco’s body, ending both the match and the 10-year title drought of Ateneo.UAAP-86-Mens-Badminton-Finals-Lance-Vargas-26 Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men's Badminton title, ends NU's dominance ADMU Badminton News NU UAAP UP UST  - philippine sports news

The Blue Eagles’ first title this season happened in front of a huge crowd that witnessed the championship tie, including no less than the chairman of the Philippine Badminton Association, Manuel V. Pangilinan, and Board of Trustees member, Frederick D. Go.

“I was actually shocked by my performance, but my mindset heading into the game was just do my best and whatever the outcome is I will just enjoy the game,” the Bacolod-born student-athlete said.

“It was the most important match because it’s do-or-die, so I just focused on every point and, eventually, won it,” he reflected.UAAP-86-Mens-Badminton-Finals-Arthur-Salvado-and-Zed-Monterubio-28 Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men's Badminton title, ends NU's dominance ADMU Badminton News NU UAAP UP UST  - philippine sports news

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Blue Eagles captain Arthur Salvado Jr. and Lyrden Laborte earlier put the side at a huge 2-0 advantage after taking the first two singles matches.UAAP-86-Mens-Badminton-Finals-Lyrden-Laborte-31 Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men's Badminton title, ends NU's dominance ADMU Badminton News NU UAAP UP UST  - philippine sports news

Salvado made quick work of Zed Monterubio, 21-12, 21-17, before Laborte followed it up with a 17-21, 21-3, 21-4 reversal against rookie MJ Perez.

The Bulldogs, though, would not lose the crown that easily, capturing the two doubles matches to keep its title-retention bids afloat.UAAP-86-Mens-Badminton-Finals-Julius-Villabrille-and-James-Villarante-12 Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men's Badminton title, ends NU's dominance ADMU Badminton News NU UAAP UP UST  - philippine sports news

National team pool members Julius Villabrille and James Villarante put NU on the board with a 21-15, 21-16 sweep of Salvado and Vargas.UAAP-86-Mens-Badminton-Finals-Marc-Perez-14 Freshman phenom Vargas leads Ateneo to UAAP Men's Badminton title, ends NU's dominance ADMU Badminton News NU UAAP UP UST  - philippine sports news

Season 85 MVP Solomon Padiz Jr. and Perez then set up the decider with 21-13, 21-14 work Laborte and Charles Bagasbas.

“I’m very happy with how the boys performed. I always knew that they had it in them, and they finally showed it. I’m beyond proud of the team,” Ateneo head coach Kennie Asuncion said.

Other members of the Blue Eagles are co-captain Justin Vanzuela, Allen Penute, Cody Torres, and Earl Nathan Santos.

University of the Philippines, on the other hand, bagged its second straight third-place finish after repeating against University of Santo Tomas; but this time via a 3-0 sweep.

National team standout Jelo Albo and fellow second-year FIghting Maroon Kervin Llanes got the job done against Kyle Adriel Basilio and Munir Bartolome, 21-17, 21-13, in the lone doubles match.

The two UP sophomores earlier swept the singles matches for the 2-0 lead. Llanes took care of Sean Dela Cruz, 21-14, 21-11, while Albo dominated Lennox Cuilao, 21-9, 21-12.

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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