Ateneo de Manila University will battle defending champion National University (NU) in the finals of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 79 men’s badminton on Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall in Malate, Manila.
The Bulldogs swept the elimination round at 7-0 to automatically advance to the finals while the Blue Eagles eliminated erstwhile twice-to-beat University of the Philippines via a 3-1 win in the first game and 3-2 in the rubber match.
On their first meeting this season, the Bulldogs thumped the Blue Eagles on September 24 making them as the favorites to win the crown this season.
Frell Keeyan Gabuelo survived Nicole Clarence Filart in the first singles match, 21-16, 15-21, 21-9, while Ross Leenard Pedrosa dispatched Carlo Glenn Remo in straight sets, 21-12, 21-17.
The duo of Alem Palmares and Mike Minuluan of NU edged Hanz Christian Bernardo and Emilio Mangubat Jr., 21-19, 21-19. Pedrosa and Alvin Morada trounced Patrick Gecosala and Fides Bagasbas, 21-8, 21-15.
Minuluan notched the fifth victory for the Bulldogs at the expense of Mangubat in a three-set thriller, 16-21, 21-18, 21-16.
While waiting for their opponent in the finals, NU head coach Jaime Llanes said that he prepared his players physically and mentally for their upcoming games.
“Actually, we trained very hard for the finals. I know they are hungry and will do their best for the finals. Running for three-peat is no ordinary thing but NU will fight their best in every game this Wednesday,” said Llanes in a text message on Monday.
For the Blue Eagles, who crawled their way to the finals, Ateneo head coach Kennie Asuncion-Robles said: “We would still continue training. All throughout the season, we did not stop at all. No breaks, no rests, still as focused. We will all be ready for the next matches.”
In the women’s finals, the Lady Eagles drew first blood against the Lady Maroons in the best-of-three series on Sunday, 3-2.
The Lady Eagles snapped UP’s 25-game winning streak since UAAP Season 77 as Patricia Edrika Malibiran stunned reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Paola Beatriz Bernardo, 21-17, 21-9, in the deciding game.
“Not expecting but I knew deep inside me that there was a possibility that we could actually take it. It all boils down to everybody wanting it enough and believing we actually can before it can happen so I think everybody did and that’s the result,” Asuncion-Robles added.
The one-week hiatus after the elimination round had cost the Lady Maroons something, said UP head coach Tosi Alcasid. “We lost because we didn’t have games for a long time and we didn’t expect that this would happen. So we have to push through in our training. They lie low because they don’t have games. Their physical activity declined.
“But for sure, we will bounce back on Wednesday. We’ll have training until Tuesday afternoon but it would all be mastering since they had several outside shots and it seemed that they lack training,” Alcasid added.
The Lady Maroons will try to tie the series against the Lady Eagles on Wednesday at the same venue after the NU-Ateneo clash that would start at 9 a.m.