Defending five-time champions National University leaned on the heroics of Thirdy Bacalso to clinch Tie 1 of the best-of-three Finals over Ateneo, 3-2, Friday afternoon at the Centro Atletico Badminton Center.
The former FEU Tamaraw had to fend off the late surge from Ateneo captain Fides Bagasbas in the third singles match to win in three games, 21-14, 20-22, 21-16.
NU drew first blood after Keeyan Gabuelo stopped Arthur Salvado’s impressive run with a 21-16, 21-14 triumph. Rookies James Villarante and Julius Villabrille then swept Geno Cariño and Bagasbas to snare back the lead at 2-1, 21-12, 21-11.
Keoni Asuncion went two-of-two after dealing newbie Solomon Padiz, Jr. the latter’s first loss of the season, 21-19, 23-25, 21-14. The former Rookie of the Year and Salvado then outlasted Gabuelo and Padiz to force the decider, 21-18, 21-19.
“Alam ko may pressure sa mga players ko,” Bulldogs head coach Jaime Llanes admitted. “Pero happy ako na nag-deliver yung third singles ko kahit na dikit yung scores.”
Llanes wanted his players to be extra motivated to get the sixth-straight title tomorrow. “Kaunting motivation pa sa players ko kasi we all know karamihan diyan rookies. Hindi sila sanay sa pressure.”
De La Salle bagged the bronze medal playoff after Andrew Pineda bucked fatigue and swept the last two matches to give the Green Shuttlers a 3-2 win over the UP Fighting Maroons.
The senior Green Shuttler and Eljee Pineda dealt graduating UP standout Vinci Manuel and Jason Vanzuela a 21-12, 21-17 defeat in the second doubles match. He then ran roughshod of Jacob Tercias at 21-17, 21-6 to claim the bronze.
Bernardo leveled the tie for La Salle, edging out Kyle Legaspi at 18-21, 21-19, 21-16 in the second singles match.
JM Bernardo closed his fourth year in the league with two wins, dominating over Jan Mangubat in the first singles match at 21-18, 21-3. He then teamed uup with Harvey Tungul to overwhelm Mangubat and Bernardo, 21-12, 21-18, in the first doubles rubber.
NU go for the clincher tomorrow at 8 a.m. at the PNP Sports Center Badminton Courts.