National University leaned on its doubles pair before Mark Velasco dominated in the decider to complete a massive 3-2 reverse sweep of University of the Philippines and book their place in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 men’s badminton final on Friday at the Centro Atletico Badminton Center.
The Bulldogs bank on the heroics of the country’s No. 2 men’s singles player, Velasco, to keep their eight-peat dream alive.
The Smash Pilipinas standout brushed off the challenge of Fighting Maroons’ rookie Johann Abinales, 21-9, 21-6, to complete the reversal that started with the side’s dependable doubles pairs.
NU will face Ateneo — a 3-0 winner over University of Santo Tomas in the other semis pairing, in the championship tie — at 8 a.m. on Sunday.
In the eliminations, it was the Blue Eagles who ended the Bulldogs’ remarkable 60-tie winning run last Wednesday.
“We were not thinking about our previous loss. What we did was to push each other up and push ourselves to make sure that what we will do is right,” Velasco said.
UP almost pulled off another upset of the titleholders after taking a huge 2-0 lead with Kervin Llanes and Jelo Albo taking care of business in the first two singles matches.
Llanes made short work of Miko Mosarbas, 21-13, 21-8, before national team standout Albo took care of MJ Perez, 21-12, 21-10.
With the season and the dynasty on the line, the Bulldogs turn to their doubles tandems to turn the tie around.
Julius Villabrille and James Villarante denied Michael Clemente and Llanes a first doubles clincher, 22-20, 21-11, before captain Solomon Padiz Jr. and Perez set up the dramatic finish with a 21-14, 21-15 stunner over erstwhile-undefeated duo of Albo and Jason Vanzuela.