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Lopez, Fighting Maroons outlast UST to get back to .500

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Sophomore Joseph Lopez lifted University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons over University of Santo Tomas Golden Shuttlers, 3–2, to snatch their second win, Saturday morning at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

In the first singles, Miggy Leonardo reasserted his mastery over batchmate John Paul Pantig to take the lead for UP. The Maroons veteran took the early lead before the Thomasian kept it close. A four-point run by Leonardo propelled him to take the first game, 21–16. Banking on momentum, Leonardo strung five unanswered points before Pantig slowly seized the lead before the break. The UST senior rode on this newfound confidence to deny Leonardo the outright win and forced a deciding game with a similar 21–16 score line. In the final frame, it was a similar tight start, where Leonardo nosed out Pantig into the court change. From there, Leonardo took control and closed match, 21–17.

Birthday boy Alcaed Sabanal celebrated his natal day in style after outlasting Jojo Malelang in three games in the following singles match. The Thomasian turned a close five-point lead at the first game break into a huge 18–8 gap. Sabanal easily took the first game, 21–9. In the second game, it was Malelang who used his advantage at the break to romp off to the victory in an even better comfortable 21–7 win. The fourth-year Maroon took the 11–5 lead into the change of ends, but Sabanal stormed to cut it to one after the ceasefire. A series of exchanges ensued as Sabanal moved to within 3 points of getting the match. However, Sabanal wrapped up his birthday gift and walked away with a four-point romp to end the match, 21–18.

With the tie leveled at one match apiece, the cheers and jeers from the UP and UST crowd reached fever pitch as if the day was the Cheerdance Competition. Fueled by the the rousing win by Sabanal, Pantig and Edgard Reyes punished an erratic Maroons duo of CK Clemente and Wakee Deato in the second doubles to take the lead for the Tigers. The Golden Shuttlers cruised to an 11–7 lead at the break of the first game. The Maroons momentarily led, but they could not maintain it as Pantig and Reyes notched the first game, 21–16. The Maroons gained their bearings at the start of the second game and took a 5–3 advantage. Nonetheless, the Thomasian duo had other plans and rampaged past them en route to a 21–11 rout.

Needing to win the match to force a deciding singles, UP rookie Vinci Manuel and second-year Betong Pineda subdued Mark Sotea and Kristian Barrios in three close games. Sotea and Barrios took the upper hand into the break, 11–9, before Manuel and Pineda found their rhythm and wrestled the lead. The UP pair moved to within three points of taking the game. The Maroons then closed the game with two straight points after a muffed opportunity, 22–20. In the following game, the Thomasians pulled away in the middle part to lead big at 15–7. UP retaliated with their own run to cut the deficit at 1. An exchange of points pushed Sotea and Barrios to game point, which they also bungled before finishing the game. With send of urgency, the Maroons duo piled five-point binge after the court change to put the game out of reach. The shuttlers from Espana chipped off a few points from their Diliman counterparts’ errors but miscues from their own conceded the match to their opponents, 11–21.

It was up to national juniors player Joseph Lopez to complete the comeback for UP or be denied by Edgard Reyes in the deciding singles match. Lopez flexed his muscles against Reyes in the early goings of the first game. Reyes’ timely shots, coupled by a few errors from the Maroons sophomore, kept the frame close. The Thomasian emerged from this tug-of-war and got to the game point first, only Lopez took control of the last few rallies to eventually snatch it, 23–21. With brimming confidence, Lopez mounted an 11–5 lead into the second game break. From there, Lopez did not look back and ended the come-from-behind victory with a strong 21–13 victory.

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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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