Fall down twice, stand up four times
It was what the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles did en route to their fourth UAAP Women’s Badminton Championship, ending with a rousing sweep past neighbors University of the Philippines Lady Maroons, Friday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton.
With the positive mindset and approach to each and every tie they entered into this season, the girls from Loyola Heights were a picture of confidence and determination, as if they had nothing to lose.
Unfazed by her opponent’s undefeated record, UAAP Season 79 Rookie of the Year Chanelle Lunod showed her wares past her year’s MVP Poca Alcala. The third-year Atenean turned around her elims loss and pushed herself to a stunning opening game win at 21-19. Alcala kept her mind on the game and blew out her counterpart to level the contest after a dominant 21-11 frame.
Nonetheless, taking it a point at a time, Lunod slowly turned a narrow 10-11 deficit at the interval to a 17-15 lead. The eventual co-MVP from Ateneo had to extricate herself from the tight third frame, before errors from the Maroon gave away the win for the Lady Eagles.
The win was a morale-booster for captain Samantha Ramos, who likewise lost to Jessie Francisco in the qualifying round. Lunod was able to turn it around this time, and it was not impossible for the third-year Ramos to do it as well.
Nonetheless, her opposing captain Francisco showed her veteran composure that made her a former top player. Despite the mini-runs captured by Ramos in the first game, it was the UAAP Season 77 MVP who clinched the game at 21-16.
That was Francisco’s last game won in her UAAP career, as Ramos completed her comeback.
With increased confidence, the Lady Eagle dictated the pace in the succeeding set and this time, it was her turn to stay composed and calm in the face of adversity from Francisco. Trailing 12-13, Ramos just needed a tying shot and got it and finally pulled through with a 21-17 win. From there, it was no turning back for Ramos as she secured the deciding set at 21-16 and the tie lead at 2-0.
With the opportunity presenting itself, it was now or never for Geva De Vera and Lunod.
At the end, the eventual co-MVPs were unstoppable, breezing past UP seniors Ann Maranon and Lea Inlayo. Point by point, rally by rally trickled in for Ateneo. And in just about 15 minutes, the Lady Eagle took the frame at 21-10, pulling them to within a set of winning their fourth title.
The onslaught continued from Lunod and De Vera, as they drowned their Maroons counterparts with a flurry of shots. Even breaks went Ateneo’s way as the shuttle dropped on their favor, leaving Inlayo and Maranon with no choice.
The hapless duo from Diliman tried, but the lead was too much, as the Lady Eagles celebrated the end to a four-year wait with a huge 21-8 second game.
The Cinderella run ended emphatically.
“It is very surreal – I never thought that our team, with our very small team, we never thought that we’ll reach to our end goal which is this very big dream – the championship,” Ramos remarked after their magical finish.
“We did not expect anything at all, we just really worked hard for it.”
Knowing of their being undermanned, the Lady Eagles knew they had their work cut our for them. “Each and every one, we did not rely on anybody, so we all had to shine on our own. We all had to step up. So with that everybody did their role.”
As setbacks and injury scares abounded, it just made it sweeter for the Blue and White.
“Our mindset lang is there is a chance to bounce back. We took every chance we had despite the shortcomings. And it all boiled down to who wants it. And we wanted it more.”
For perhaps the first time in the UAAP badminton history, two MVPs were awarded as Season 77 ROY Lunod and fourth-year standout De Vera clinched the top plum. NU player and Philippine national team ace Sarah Barredo was the runaway ROY awardee for the season.
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