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Tiebreaker Times


In ‘last dance’, Lunod could not have picked a better partner/opponent in Inlayo

When the UAAP Season 85 women’s badminton tournament started, then-reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player Chanelle Lunod just wanted the Ateneo de Manila University squad to enjoy the ride, without losing focus on the chance to get a three-peat.

After all, Lunod wanted a graceful exit from her storied UAAP career.

And on November 5, the UAAP Season 79 Rookie of the Year stamped her class against University of the Philippines’ Aldreen Concepcion in the deciding singles match to send the Blue Eagles into a fourth straight finals appearance.

“I’m very happy with my performance today kasi nag-mindset talaga ko for this game, because I know na UP isn’t just any team — might be the strongest team that we’re going to face this season. Yun nga, huwag kong pangunahan ng kaba, and just enjoy the game,” Lunod shared after that win.

“Kasi this is my last playing year, my last season, so I want it to be memorable, kaya I really tried to focus on just enjoying the game.”

Fast forward to a week and a day after, Ateneo and UP could not be separated from each other after the first four matches of the championship tie. And once more, it was up to the former Ateneo captain to steer her team to the title … and it is now for the final time.

It would not be easy as a similarly hungry opponent was at the other side of the court — Fighting Maroons’ own super senior Lea Inlayo.

What ensued in the first two games was a nip-and-tuck battle that went into deuces before Lunod collected the first game and Inlayo equalized in the second. And as fate would have it the title went into a deciding final game.UAAP-S85-WBD-November-13-FINAL-ADMU-v-UP-Lea-Inlayo-4 In 'last dance', Lunod could not have picked a better partner/opponent in Inlayo ADMU Badminton News UAAP  - philippine sports news

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The palpable tension was evident and as Lunod described it, “Yung feeling was … usually kasi if you are playing someone sa third singles tapos siya hindi kasing tagal mo nang mag-UAAP, not as experienced as you, at some point bibitaw siya eh.

“Yung kay Lea kasi, pareho pa kami na nanggaling pa kaming national team na doubles kami pareho. Teammates kami there. And then, magkalaban kami. From doubles naging singles, pareho pa kaming super seniors, ako, I just wanted to play.”

Thus, the 22-year-old national team member admitted, “I had doubts na kaya ko ba to? Kasi hinihintay ko siyang buimgay pero hindi siya bumibigay. And then eventually nung nawala yung doubt ko na parang ‘Sige na nga, laruin ko na lang.’ doon pa siya bumigay. So, it was unexpected.”

With just one point needed to clinch the title, Lunod uncharacteristically faulted her serve, giving Inlayo some lease of life. Lunod, though, read her opponent’s serve well in the following point to eventually take the game, the match, and the championship — a third consecutive one for the girls from Loyola Heights.UAAP-S85-WBD-November-13-FINAL-ADMU-v-UP-Chanelle-Lunod In 'last dance', Lunod could not have picked a better partner/opponent in Inlayo ADMU Badminton News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“Yung last game, sobrang anybody’s game. I wasn’t really expecting so. Although I wanted to win, I wanted to get it. Pero yun, it was a little bit shaky, sobrang close fight, but I was able to manage and deliver.”

With her dream exit fulfilled, the Master of Business Administration student wanted the rest of the Blue Eagles to follow her cue.

“I hope I was able to inspire them for next year na kahit gaano ka-dikit yan, kahit gaano ka-mukhang impossible, kahit gaano ka-clutch, puso lang and it will all come together in the end.”

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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