It was “Throwback Thursday” in Day 6 of the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Badminton Tournament as former Most Valuable Jessie Francisco provided the drama in a crucial win of the nine-time champions University of the Philippines Lady Maroons at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.
With the win, the tournament will have the conventional cross-over Final Four for the first time in five years as the Fighting Maroons averted a sweep by the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles.
Smarting from the loss against the defending champions, De La Salle University Lady Shuttlers, the former three-peat champions from Diliman was on a mission to bounce back. On the other hand, their neighbors from the opposite side of Katipunan Avenue are raring to proceed with their miracle run despite undermanned and huddled with injury problems. The result was a split of the first four matches.
UAAP Season 79 MVP Poca Alcala continued her dominant form, taking down the well-rested Chanelle Lunod in just two games to take the lead for UP. However, the advantage did not take long as Ateneo’s Geva De Vera was all-business in the sweep of UP rookie Jaja Andres in the second singles match.
With two former MVPs fielded, the Fighting Maroons regained the lead with Alcala and Francisco manning the court and the two cruised past sophomores Alyssa Roxas and Bea Felizardo. De Vera and Lunod then fended off a first-game setback, overhauled manageable deficits to take the second, before dominating the third over Lea Inlayo and Ann Maranon in the second doubles match to level once more.
While all this was happening, Francisco has not bothered to watch and remained focused on her own singles match coming. “Nung second set na, pumunta na ko sa assembly area. Hindi ko na pinanood yung game. Hindi ko nga alam kung ano yung score, hindi ko inalam kung panalo ba sila o hindi.”
That focus and determination was evident when Francisco faced opposing captain Samantha Ramos. The UAAP Season 77 MVP went out of the gates on fire, and despite some hiccups and points from the Ateneo skipper, she managed to bounced back and inched closer to the first set win. Eventually, with that same composure and the grit that made her the top player on her rookie year, the student-athlete-leader and current UP captain sent her side to the bounce-back and kept UP’s record of four straight outright Finals appearances in the stepladder era intact.
Joining the two institutions from the north at this 4-1 record, Sarah Barredo and National University stopped the defending champs with a 4-1 score line.
National team ace Sarah Barredo fended off fellow national team member and reigning MVP Nicole Albo in a heated but convincing two-set encounter. Rookie Kanna Baba then showed up for the Green and White, leveling the tie with win past Jeya Pinlac in the second singles match.
That turned out to be the last hurrah from the reigning queens.
Barredo and Thea Pomar emerged victorious in their showdown against Albo and La Salle captain Iyah Sevilla in the hard-fought first doubles match which ended at two 21-19 score lines. Afterwards, Jiselle Capillo and Pinlac disposed off Baba and Victoria Yason in the second game of the second singles match to eventually secure National U’s fourth win of the season.
Pomar than completed the rout past Sevilla with an exciting second game at 24-22 to boot in the third singles match.
Completing the day’s ties, Adamson University (2-3) kept their semis hopes alive, while eliminating University of Santo Tomas (1-5) in the process.
Senior Clydel Pada opened the day with a two-set defeat of UST captain Kate Tating in two games, before fellow standout Mikaela Aquino took down Elij Pena likewise in two games.
The two then bucked fatigue to eventually secure the tie win for the Lady Falcons, taking care of Steph Mortera and Anne Pimentel in two close games in the first singles match.
Alyssa San Pedro and Monica Magallanes made their mark in another dramatic finish in the second doubles match to upend Tating and Pena. Averting a sweep, Mortera won in two past a recovered Jhay Anne Macabenta in the third singles match.
The Maroons (4-1) will shoot for the twice-to-beat advantage, even as opponents Lady Falcons (2-3) go for a playoff shot in their tussle on Saturday, October 6 at 1pm.
On the other hand, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Bulldogs (both at 4-1) dispute the other semis bonus at that very same date and time.
Likewise, the defending champions Lady Shuttlers (3-2) will attempt to clinch a semifinals berth as they face the winless Lady Red Warriors of UE (0-5) in the third simultaneous tie.