Fourth-year Lady Eagle Geva De Vera once plucked a rousing win on Court 1; today, at a very opportune time, she did it again.
The former national juniors standout turned back former teammate Jessie Francisco to steer the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles to the brink of ending their four-year title drought, Wednesday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
The adjustments paid off for head coach Kennie Asuncion, but it boiled down to the determination of De Vera and UAAP Season 79 Women’s Badminton Rookie of the Year Chanelle Lunod.
On this day, it was the Fighting Maroons who got to the board first after UAAP Season 79 Most Valuable Player Poca Alcala dominated the Ateneo captain Samantha Ramos in the first singles match. Despite a spurt of points from the senior Lady Eagle, the fifth-year UP shuttler was in control of the rallies. In the end, the score board read 21-13, 21-10.
Lunod then flexed her muscles in the second singles match over UP rookie Tricia Opon. The third-year singles specialist from Loyola Heights took advantage of her opponent’s inexperience. Opon tried to keep in step, but the skills of her elder counterpart emerged victorious at 21-9, 21-12.
As if using the singles match as warm-up, Lunod, after a brief rest, took the court once again for the doubles match with De Vera. Using the momentum she gained from the one-on-one battle, the junior and her senior partner stunned Alcala and Jessie Francisco in the opening set at 21-14.
The two former MVPs from Diliman fought hard in the second frame, dictating the pace and out-hustling the Ateneans. UP slowly inched to the game point at 20-13 and then closed it out with a clean hit from Francisco at 21-15. Going back to what won them the first set, De Vera and Lunod went for the openings in the back row and kept their defense on hold. With errors piling up for the UP side, the Ateneo secured the match at 21-16 to put them at the 2-1 tie advantage.
However, Lea Inlayo and Ann Maranon had other plans.
Showing that all is well between the two previous ROYs, they dominated the first game of the second doubles match at 21-10. Bea Felizardo and Ramos kept the succeeding frame interesting until the Maroons slowly inched to the end and never looked back, to equalize the tie at 21-18 for the second.
It was then De Vera and Francisco’s turn to dispute the win.
The two have both plucked crucial deciding wins for their schools before, with Francisco doing it past Ateneo. Nonetheless, De Vera owned Court 1 against La Salle and today she was back on her “home floor.”
It was an exciting tussle in the deciding doubles match, as De Vera cruised past her opponent in the first singles match, but not without a scare from the former top player of the league.
As the fourth-year Lady Eagle admitted, “Actually puno ako ng kaba sa game. Pero bakit pa ko kakabahan? Pangatlong Finals ko na ‘to. I have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.”
Those nerves might have crept into De Vera’s veins as Francisco snagged the second frame at 22-20, diffusing the former’s first match point at 20-19. Nonetheless, De Vera – with that mindset – played her all for herself and for the Ateneo community in attendance.
“Ginawa ko to para sa sarili ko. Kasi si Jessie team mate ko yan eh. Sila yung may partner lagi, sila yung nakakaalis pa-abroad. I just showed to myself kung ano yung kaya ko,” De Vera shared. “Pero ginawa ko rin to para sa mga pumunta rito. Minsan lang yung maraming pumunta from Ateneo. Yiou have to show them a good game.”
The Lady Eagles will try to close out the series against the Maroons on Friday, October 12.