Facing their greatest challenge thus far, University of the Philippines extended their winning streak at the dating back from last year to 12, after nosing out De La Salle University, 3–2, in UAAP women’s badminton action, Wednesday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
Mixing it up in this tie, last year’s top rookie Ann Marañon made it count for UP when she pulled through against DLSU’s upstart Ariane Rivera in three sets in the first singles. Rivera took advantage of Marañon’s slow start and racked up points to lead the first game going into the break, 11–6. The tall sophomore then continued to roll, denied Marañon any momentum, and closed it out, 21–15. The Lady Maroon bounced back in the following frame and took the early lead. It was Marañon’s turn to maintain her lead and consequently leveled the match, 21–15. In the deciding game, the UP second-year standout zapped Rivera’s confidence and romped to clinch the match, 21–11.
UP Team Captain Bea Bernardo continued to build from her renewed vigor to upend another La Sallian rookie Iya Sevilla in two straight sets in the second singles match. Bernardo mounted a 9–4 advantage and pushed the game into the interval. Sevilla slowly chipped into the lead, but UP’s usual leadoff player pulled through and took the game, 21–16. The Maroon picked this up in the second frame, and uncorked a huge 10-point lead, 15–5. After Sevila had cut the deficit to 4, Bernardo took it one point at time and annexed the second game and the match, 21–15.
In what could be the season’s most intense women’s match to date, Jessie Francisco and Lea Inlayo of the Lady Maroons upended Kristelle Salatan and Alyssa Leonardo in two tight sets. In the first set, the Lady Archers nosed out the UP tandem and led 11–7 at the break. Inlayo and Francisco then wrestled the advantage with an 8–0 run. An exchange of points ensued before UP went within two points of getting the game. DLSU then came back and clinched the first game point, 20–19. However, it was UP who plucked the last three points to snatch the win, 22–20. The second set was just as close, until UP romped to lead by as high as 4, 17–13. At match point, Francisco netted two push shots that gave Salatan and Leonardo a sense of hope. DLSU could not capitalize on the chance, as UP clinched the set, 21–19. The win secured UP’s third straight victory of the season.
La Salle’s Aires Montilla partnered with Sevilla in the following doubles singles match to subdue Marañon and Marina Caculitan. Taking advantage of UP’s slow start, Montilla and Sevilla asserted their might early and never looked back. The DLSU duo led by as high as 10, 17–7, and breezed through the first game, 21–11. With their patented comeback game, Marañon and Caculitan overturned a slim deficit into their favor. Nonetheless, just as UP was about to force a deciding game, La Salle emerged victorious to take the set and the match, 21–19.
In the final singles match, top Rookie of the Year candidates battled it out with Nicole Albo getting the better of a visibly tired Inlayo in three sets. The UP freshman pulled off a strong start and led 15–7, but Albo slowly leveled it to 15. In the end, Inlayo made some crucial points to take the set, 21–19. The Lady Archer then slowly picked it up in the following set and took the upper hand at 10–8, before the match was stopped as Inlayo had an open wound. After the medical timeout, the Lady Maroon took a slim 17–16 advantage. However, a series of errors from UP and kills from Albo gave the game to DLSU, 21–17. In the deciding set, Albo took advantage of Inlayo’s miscues to easily close the set, 21–14.
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