Defending four-peat champions National University Bulldogs brought out their A-game to upend last year’s Finals rivals the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons while the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles walloped the Adamson University Soaring Falcons in Day 5 of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Badminton Tournament, Tuesday morning at Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
After absorbing a shocking defeat off Niel Pineda of La Salle, returning player and former Most Valuable Player Ros Pedrosa plucked a second match win in a row, dealing Fighting Maroons’ top singles player JM Bernardo the latter’s first loss of the season in three games. Mike Minuluan then fashioned out a convincing sweep of Michael Clemente to put the Bulldogs on top at 2-0.
In the first doubles match and with a chance to extend that winning streak to 39, Reigning MVP Alvin Morada and Alem Palmares came from behind in three games to deny UP super-senior-and-rookie tandem of Roberto Pineda and Harvey Tungul despite the latter’s heads-up play. Morada then overwhelmed the Maroons’ other freshman Kyle Legaspi in the third singles match to complete the rout.
The Diliman-based squad would not be swept, nonetheless, as captains Vinci Manuel and Bernardo took the second doubles match, also in three games, past Minuluan and Pedrosa.
For Morada, the reigning kings just remained focus despite the adversity. “Ang masasabi ko lang about sa game kanina is lahat kami binigay lang yng best namin,” he said.
Perhaps noting of the rookies in the UP side, the last year’s top player added, “Ang naging advantage lang namin siguro is yung almost lahat kami nakalaro na sa Finals.”
The Bulldogs remain unbeaten at 4-0 this season, while the Fighting Maroons absorbed their first loss at 3-1.
Speaking of Finals appearances, NU’s UAAP Season 79 opponents from Katipunan used it to the hilt against the upstart Soaring Falcons. The Blue Eagles, denied of the outright win after the first doubles match, was dominant in the other matches after that.
In a heated battle, Keoni Asuncion stopped Elben Concha’s spectacular run in two close sets to take the early lead for the Ateneans. Captain Carlo Remo then doubled the advantage for the Loyola Heights men as he defeated Kevin Fabros in three frames.
Adamson took one back as Concha and Johnrick Macabenta continued to impress with another tight two-setter past Fides Bagasbas and Sean Chan in the first doubles match, but Asuncion and Remo eventually clinched it in the second of the doubles matches, taking down Fabros and Antonio Sallan III in two sets.
Bagasbas then closed the rout with another two-game conquest, this time over Macabenta to put Ateneo at 3-1. Adamson slipped to 2-3.
In the battle for survival, last year’s semifinalists University of Santo Tomas Golden Spikers fueled a slight chance at a return at the Final Four after dropping listless University of the East Red Warriors in 11 games.
The Espana-based squad dealt the Red Warriors its fifth straight loss this season while taking its first win in four outings.
UST rookie Lorenzo Del Rosario finally picked up a UAAP win after denying Christian Garcia a comeback in the first singles match. The UE newbie took his side’s first game won in the season, but his counterpart from the Tigers was too strong in that deciding set.
The veterans then closed the tie and clinched the win for the Tigers as John Christian Yabut and the pair of Paolo Barrios and Juan Miguel Santiago dominated Benjamin Silva and the duo of Edward Adriano and Rojan Gamil in the next two matches: the second singles match and the first singles match, both in two convincing games.
Josh Defensor and rookie Rusell Enriquez joined the fray as they quashed Garcia and Silva in the second doubles match, before Henrick Peralta completed the sweep for UST.