THE ATENEO Lady Shuttlers outlasted Far Eastern University (FEU) 3-2 in Game 1 of the UAAP Women’s Badminton Finals at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) Badminton Hall on Saturday, September 8.
Returning to the court after a two-week break, the top-seeded Lady Shuttlers entered Saturday afternoon’s team tie with a thrice-to-beat advantage after sweeping the elimination round.
Coach Kennie Asuncion fielded rookie phenomenon Jana De Vera in the first match to start off the festivities. De Vera, who’s been one of the biggest revelations this season for the team, set things in motion with a 21-16 triumph in the first game. That game, however, would turn out to be De Vera’s lone victory as she would proceed to drop the next two to Kim Mayono, 19-21, 18-21.
With the Lady Shuttlers down 1-0 in the team tie, sophomore Gelita Castilo wasted no time notching things up at one match apiece in the second match. The Season 74 Rookie of the Year easily dominated Jennifer Cayetano 21-7 in the first game before closing the match out with a 21-15 victory in the second game.
Coach Asuncion then went with the number one-ranked Philippine Badminton Ranking System Open Women’s Doubles tandem of Castilo and Dia Magno for the first doubles match. The battle-hardened due did not disappoint as they edged out FEU’s pair of Pascual and Dionisio in consecutive games, 21-18, 21-11, to move Ateneo one match away from securing Game 1.
Senior Mikee Roxas and De Vera teamed-up in the second doubles match looking to shut the door on their opponents. FEU’s Cayetano and Mayono had other plans, though, as they kept their team’s hopes alive by winning 21-15, 21-11 to send the team tie to a fifth and deciding match.
With the outcome of the team tie up for grabs, Magno took center stage as she went up against Michal Duquilla in the sudden death match. Despite the importance of the game, Magno without a doubt relished the opportunity, admitting that Rizal Memorial felt like her own “exclusive playground” during one of the biggest trials of her UAAP career.
Magno and Duquilla were neck and neck in the early stages of the first game. The two were tied at 13-all before Magno went on a 5-0 run to grab control. Magno eventually took the first game, 21-16, as Duquilla’s shot sailed out of bounds.
Duquilla bounced back at the start of the second game, building an early 4-point margin before Magno tied things at 12-all. From there, Magno took over and went on to win the second game, 21-17, to help Ateneo capture Game 1 of the Finals.
Asked after the game what was going through her mind in the final match, Magno answered, “Focus. I had to step up and deliver the win because the whole team was depending on me.” She went on to say that she was talking to herself the whole time, repeatedly uttering the phrases, “one point at a time,” “no unforced errors,” and “no distractions.”
Whether it was because of her love for big time moments or her focus, Magno was definitely up to the task of delivering for the Lady Shuttlers. She, along with fellow sophomore Gelita Castilo, shined the brightest for Team Ateneo when it counted the most.
With the victory, the Ateneo Lady Shuttlers are just a win away from taking home the tournament’s ultimate prize.Game 2 of the Women’s Badminton Finals is scheduled to take place 1:00PM Sunday, September 9 at the RMSC Badminton Hall.