Former three-peat champions University of the Philippines Lady Maroons and upstart National University Lady Bulldogs closed out their qualifying campaigns on a high en route to securing the twice-to-beat incentives in the semifinals, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
With the two teams level at 4-1 along with the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, the permutations on thr scenarios was aplenty. Needless to say, the bottomline was a dramatic finish.
For their part , the Fighting Maroons needed to sweep the Adamson University Lady Falcons to secure the top seed. And they did just that.
Former Most Valuable Player Poca Alcala dominated Clydel Pada in the first singles match in two games, before rookie Jaja Andres showed her wares in the second singles match past Jhay Anne Macabenta also in just two games.
Captain Jessie Francisco and former Rookie of the Year Lea Inlayo then pocketed the Diliman-based side’s fifth win of the season after sending off Mikaela Aquino and Pad in the first doubles match despite the Falcons’ grit in the two frames played.
The day was not yet done, however, as Ann Maranon, another former Rookie of the Year, and current newbie Tricia Opon took down Alyssa San Pedro and Monica Magallanes in a rather quick match to set up Inlayo for the much-needed sweep past Lizette Dela Cueva.
For Francisco, they knew of what was to be done, but focused on each of the matches at hand.“Kanina madaming nagsasabi sa amin (me and my teammates) na kailangan namin maka 5-0 para maging rank 1. Pero nakikita ko sa teammates ko mas na-pepressure lang sila, so sinasabi ko lang sa kanila na ‘Hindi, wag niyo na muna isipin yung 5-0 and yung rank and mag focus muna sa game today, na ang kailangan lang namin manalo. One by one lang, wag agad yung end goal isipin but mag focus kung ano yung lalaruin today at ipinalo muna yun.'”
The defending champions De La Salle University Lady Shuttlers, on the other hand, opted to rest last year’s MVP Nicole Albo leaving the door opened for the other players to step up.
Captain Iyah Sevilla opened the day with a tight and hard-fought win past her opposing number Erycka Labay in the first singles match. Afterwards, Kanna Baba continued to impress with another win in the second singles contest over Kessara Palot in two games.
Lindsay Tercias and Geki Paz closed the day and secured the win with a quashing of Jalynne Chua and Deinne Leonardo in the first doubles match.
UE, nonetheless, would not go out of the season without a fight,
In the second doubles match, Labay and Palot avenged their respective singles losses to stop Meng Minuluan and Victoria Yason in two 21-19 sets, before Chua outlasted Hannah Bautista in three games in the final singles match.
In the end, it the was Sarah Barredo and the Lady Bulldogs who secured their first-ever Final Four incentive in history.
The national team ace fended off the challenge of Ateneo captain Samantha Ramos in two frames. The latter led at the start of either games, but Barredo found ways to get the points in opportune time. Afterwards, Chanelle Lunod clinched her first win coming back from injury to level the tie for the Blue and White with a dominant showing past Jiselle Capillo.
The see-saw battle continued as the teams split the doubles matches. The first one went, as expected, NU’s way as Barredo and fellow national athlete Thea Pomar also managed another Ramos uprising, this time with sophomore Bea Felizardo on board. The second one, however, went Lunod and Geva De Vera’s side after a waylaying of Capillo and Jeya Pinlac.
The third singles match was a toss up with De Vera taking the first game point at 20-18. Nonetheless, Pomar persevered and snagged the frame at 24-22. From there, the Lady Bulldog and former FEU Lady Tamaraw bagged the match, the tie, and the twice-to-beat edge.
“It was really such a great blessing for all of us kasi everyone worked hard for it,” the national team standout shared on clinching the school’s maiden semis bonus.
Pomar and the rest of the Bustillos-based squad knew that it all begins here. “It gives us more motivations to do more and to show more of what our team are capable of ,” she ended.
The Final Four will take place on Sunday, October 7 at 1 pm with simultaneous ties between UP and La Salle, and between NU and Ateneo.