Reigning, five-peat champion National University and Ateneo took down its respective opponents, to forge a title showdown in the UAAP Season 82 Men's Badminton Finals, Wednesday at the Centro Atletico Badminton Center.
The Bulldogs though needed to dig deep to outlast the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 3-2.
Thirdy Bacalso kept the undefeated streak of the Bulldogs to 50 straight ties as he dominated Michael Clemente in the deciding singles match, 21-16, 21-10.
NU needed to complete the comeback in the second doubles match as UP super senior Vinci Manuel and rookie Jason Vanzuela threatened to clinch the tie. Solomon Padiz Jr. and Keeyan Gabuelo had other plans, taking a three-set win, 21-16, 15-21, 21-17.
UP captain JM Bernardo steered his squad to a 2-1 lead after sweeping his outings. The fourth-year standout repeated over Keeyan Gabuelo in the first singles match, 13-21, 22-20, 21-16, before teaming up with Harvey Tungul in outlasting James Villarante and Julius Villabrille, 21-17, 13-21, 21-10.
Earlier, Padiz Jr. stopped Kyle Legaspi in the second singles rubber, 21-16, 21-14, to knot things up at 1-1.
NU head coach Jaime Llanes was pleased that his squad responded to the challenge imposed by UP. "Nakikita ko na UP came here to fight, so sabi ko, 'You have to fight also if you want to win,'" he said.
"So happy ako nung nakita ko na they were fighting, they were shouting," he continued.
In the other court, rookie Arthur Salvado impressed in his first UAAP semifinals appearance, leading the Blue Eagles' 3-1 win over the De La Salle Green Shuttlers.
Salvado and Keoni Asuncion closed the day with the win after outhustling Andrew Pineda and Joshua Morada in the second doubles match, 19-21, 21-13, 21-16.
Salvado took the lead, getting the first singles match, 21-18, 21-15, over Jan Mangubat, before Asuncion made it 2-0 against Andrew Pineda, 16-21, 21-17, 21-19.
Mangubat and Christian Bernardo got one for the Green Shuttlers, 21-18, 15-21, 21-12, over Geno Cariño and Fides Bagasbas, in the first doubles rubber.
Salvado was elated to bring Ateneo back to the Finals after two years. "As a rookie, I feel happy for the team that we got back," he said. "It was a struggle but our hard work has paid off."
The best-of-three Finals between NU and Ateneo will start on Friday, October 4 at 8:00 am, still at Centro Atletico. UP and La Salle will have their one-tie playoff for third at the same time.
UAAP Season 82 Men's Badminton Final Four:
Ateneo vs La Salle
NU vs UP
1 - Estarco Bacalso III, NU
2 - John Matthew Bernardo, UP
3 - Michael Adrian Clemente, UP
4 - Keeyan Gabuelo, NU
5 - Keeyan Gabuelo, NU
6 - Kyle Legaspi, UP
7 - Vincent Manuel & Jason Valenzuela, UP
8 - Solomon Padiz Jr. & Keeyan Gabuelo, NU
9 - Solomon Padiz Jr., NU
10 - Dean Harvey Tungul & John Matthew Bernardo, UP
11 - James Villarante & Julius Villabrille, NU