Ateneo ended a seven-year UAAP men’s badminton title drought at the expense of a National University squad that looked to end a 25-season dry spell for a title in the UAAP.
The Blue Eagles frustrated the Bulldogs, 3-1, in the Season 74 badminton finals at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall on Tuesday.
Ateneo’s Toby Gadi brought down fellow national player Philip Jofer Escueta of NU, 24-22, 19-21, 21-17, in the second singles for a Blue Eagles lead after Pawee Natividad defeated Aries delos Santos, 21-17, 10-21, 21-12, in the opening singles.
The Bulldogs, who last won a UAAP crown — men’s chess — in 1986, stayed in the hunt when Escueta and Andrei Babad beat Paolo Sunga and Justin Natividad, 19-21, 21-12, 21-15, in the first doubles.
But NU could not go any further as Gadi and Natividad booked a 21-18, 21-18 title-clincher over the Bulldogs pair of De los Santos and Sonny Boy Montilla in the second doubles.
“Toby (Gadi) is a true winner. Kahit nagka-cramps na siya, he wanted it more,” said Blue Eagles coach Kennie Asuncion. The title was the third for Ateneo in the UAAP.
“Sobrang saya na to win this one. Last year, we were expected na mag-champion but we fell short maybe because of the pressure,” said Gadi, the men’s Most Valuable Player.
“This year, mahirap ang route na pinagdaanan namin because we ended up No. 4 and we were the underdogs. We need to beat top seed La Salle twice to make it to the finals. I’m glad na nagbunga ang lahat ng pinaghirapan namin,” added Gadi.
De La Salle’s Gerald Sibayan was named Rookie of the Year while JC Clarito earned Most Improved Player honors. Asuncion got the Coach of the Year trophy.
“We have waited for the past two or three years. We really stayed focused and we never stopped trying,” said Asuncion on her first UAAP title with the Blue Eagles.
De La Salle disposed of Far Eastern University, 3-1, in the battle for third place.