The battle for a spot in the finals of the UAAP Season 79 Badminton Tournament happened yesterday at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall, as the DLSU Lady Shuttlers faced their bitter rivals, the ADMU Lady Eagles, in a winner-take-all semi-final match. Prior to the game, ADMU forced the rubber match and negated second-seed La Salle’s twice-to-beat advantage.
It was a thrilling afternoon, as the Lady Shuttlers gave it their all against a tough ADMU team, but ultimately fell short as the Lady Eagles emerged victorious in all three games. With the loss, DLSU ended its campaign in third place while the Lady Eagles advanced to the final where they will face the unbeaten UP Lady Maroons.
Given the stakes that come in a do-or-die situation, both coaches fielded in their top players. It was a marquee match-up between Green Shuttler Iyah Sevilla and Lady Eagle Bianca Carlos. Both players have been their team’s most consistent performers in singles matches during the season. Given such, it was bound to be a classic battle on the badminton court.
The first set was just as expected, as Sevilla and Carlos played exceptionally well on both ends. With the score tied at 14-all, Sevilla went on a run, scoring four straight to take an 18-14 lead. But Carlos would answer back with a run of her own to get within one point, 18-17. Both players would then go toe-to-toe from that point, with the score tied at 20. However, it would be Carlos who got the upper-hand, saving two game points on her way to a 23-21 set win.
The second set was another epic clash, with both players giving it their all with incredible shot-making. It was Carlos who would pull away before the break, 11-7. The Lady Eagle never looked back, overwhelming Sevilla to take the set, 21-16, and give ADMU a 1-0 lead.
The second tussle was a Game One rematch between La Salle’s Arianne Rivera and Patrisha Malibiran. In their first encounter, the Lady Eagle won in three sets, coming from a set down. This time, it was Malibiran who took an early 11-7 lead at the break of the first set. Rivera would answer back, tying the game at 12. Eventually, Malibiran found a way to weather the storm, taking the set, 21-18.
Visibly frustrated with how the opening set played out, Rivera then composed herself as she took an 11-8 lead at the second break. But Malibiran would again respond to take control of the match. With the tides turning again in favor of ADMU, Rivera found herself staring at an 18-14 deficit, as Malibiran charged forward. At that point, the Lady Shuttler went on an inspired run to knot the set at 19. It was a nail-biter until the end, with Rivera’s missed attempt costing her the match, 21-19, with Malibiran giving ADMU a commanding 2-0 lead.
With the series hanging tipped in the side of the team from Katipunan, the doubles match pitted singles specialists Isay Leonardo and Sevilla against Carlos and Chanelle Lunod. It was a frenetic first set for both teams. The Lady Eagles got the better of the exchanges by the break, taking an 11-9 lead.
Down 20-15, the Lady Shuttlers seemed on the verge of an improbable comeback as they cut the ADMU lead, 20-18. Their efforts weren’t enough as Sevilla committed a costly error to lose the first set, 21-18.
With their season and finals aspirations on the line, the Lasallians needed a miracle to overcome such odds. The Lady Eagles were unrelenting in their defense, even as Sevilla and Leonardo pressed forward with every attack. Costly errors hurt the Shuttlers as they found themselves down 20-15, with ADMU all but ready to repeat last year’s result. Sevilla and Leonardo would not go down, pouring their hearts out with every effort they could muster in every exchange, saving four match points to keep the Blue-and-White at bay. But their run was not enough as Sevilla’s smash hit the net, paving the way for ADMU to set up a match against the UP Lady Maroons in the final.
On consistency and grace under pressure
After the game, head coach Owen Lopez was left shellshocked and disheartened by his team’s demise for a second straight year at the hands of ADMU. “Actually, syempre buong team, hindi naman namin ine-expect na ganun yung mangyayari.”
While admitting that he did not expect to be down 2-0 in the singles matches, Lopez harboured on the team’s lack of consistency and faltering under pressure, “Ang sinabi ko lang naman ko lang naman sa team namin is kailangan may mag step-up, hindi pwede parang ang nangyari… ang laban is hindi individual. Sinc team competition, kailangan tulungan.”
The Lady Shuttlers’ loss comes at the expense of graduating team captain Kristelle Salatan and doubles partner Aires Montilla. Lopez expects the rest of his team to learn from its defeat and come back stronger and better prepared next season.