by Luis Miclat
The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers swept the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 5-0, ending their campaign for a semis spot in the UAAP Men’s Badminton Tournament Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
“I think the first two losses really hurt their morale, because their players are not the type to go down easily,” said UST coach Noli Cajefe about UP.
The first singles match between UP’s freshman Miguel Leonardo and UST senior Salvador Capunan was a foreshadowing of UP’s play for the rest of the day.
Leonardo started out strong, winning the first five points with aggressive play.
At 5-0, Capunan then snagged his first point with a killer smash, along with the momentum of the game. Leonardo’s aggressive play started betraying him, as errors started to creep in, bringing them to 14 all.
The two of them traded faults until 20 all, when Leonardo hit a smash that Capunan dove for, but could not retrieve. A controversial call turned the point into a let, with Capunan complaining that he slid because of the wet court. Leonardo then netted the next two points to give the first set to Capunan, 20-22.
It all went downhill for UP from there as Leonardo’s attempts to hit winners brought out 19 faults, easily handing the match to Capunan, 20-22, 14-22.
Next up was Maroon Ethan Malelang against Tiger RJ Ormilla, another rookie versus veteran match up, that mirrored the first. Perhaps it was nerves, but Malelang, like Leonardo, put up a good fight but ended up giving the match away, 16-21, 16-21, committing 31 faults in two sets.
“I think it was experience that helped UST to win,” said UP Coach Vic Asuncion. “Most of their players are seniors while most our players are freshmen. UST really managed to pull through when it came to the big points.”
As the doubles went underway, the Maroons tried to regain some footing as the first doubles team consisting of Gian Manuel and John Masungsong traded winners with UST’s Paul John Pantig and Benjud Cajefe, who is the brother of the UST coach.
Unfortunately for UP, the steady stream of winners coming from the UST team overpowered theirs, which had turned into errors at the end of each set, losing 16-21, 17-21.
The second UP doubles team of Malelang and Roberto Pineda could not do much against the combined experience of Ormilla and Capunan. The UST team clearly showcased their experience as they won their last two points by hitting defensive clear shots to tire out the UP team into faulting, winning UST the match, 15-21, 15-21.
A final effort from UP’s senior Charlo Tengco was still not enough to assuage UST’s momentum as he succumbed into the hands of the lively Benjud Cajefe, who cartwheeled out of a dive and made faces as he almost hit the net during the game. DespiteTengco’s great effort, he lost the match 21-23, 18-21.
The Maroons bowed out of their bid for a final four spot with 2-5 win-loss card.