SportsDLSU Green and Lady Booters surge to playoffs
DLSU Green and Lady Booters surge to playoffs

Green Booter Federico 'Don' Rabaya (top right) avoids the tackle of Ateneo's Jico Noel (bottom right) as his teammate Anton Mendoza looks on during the second round bout of the La Salle-Ateneo men's football match. The Green Booters outclassed the Blue Booters in this round, but it was the latter that eliminated the La Salle team. in the semifinals

 

The DLSU Green and Lady Booters improved their performances to revive their title aspirations during the second round of the UAAP men’s and women’s football tournaments.

The Green Booters almost swept the second round, with only a last-game defeat against the UP Maroon Booters staining the supposedly immaculate record. The team finished with 24 points after 12 games to earn a Final Four spot in its first year of inception in the sport. Sadly, the Green Booters can only settle for fourth place as the team was outlasted by the Ateneo Blue Booters during their February 14 Final Four match.

The Lady Booters, on the other side, has also elevated its form in the second half of the season. Last year’s finalist stayed unbeaten in the team’s last four games with three wins and a draw to book a return ticket to the Finals against FEU.

 

Almost unbeaten

The Green Booters started out strong after five straight wins. During the first game of the season’s second round, The La Salle XI took on the UST Tigers and won by 4-0. Goals from the Diamante brothers, Gelo and Gio, and JojoBorromeo gave DLSU full three points.

With momentum on their side, the Green Booters continued to dominate by defeating the struggling UE Warriors. The Diamante brothers proved to be consistent after Gelo scored four goals while Gio converted one from the penalty spot.

The Green Booters extended the streak with a 2-1 win over FEU. The Green-and-White squad banked on controlling the possession to help the team convert a 0-1 halftime deficit to a 2-1 victory. Gelo Diamante, one of the league’s leading Rookie of the Year candidates, scored twice to snatch the win away from FEU’s hands.

The Green Booters then blanked the NU Bulldogs, 2-0, to strengthen the team’s chances of going into the Final Four. Don Rabaya scored both goals for DLSU.

After losing to its archrival during the first half, the Green Booters avenged their loss with a 2-0 triumph through Gio Diamante and Rabaya’s goals in the second half.

Needing a win to seal a top spot in the Final Four, the Green Booters’ triumphant run ended when the team succumbed to the defending champion UP, 1-2. Rabaya scored an early goal but former LSGH striker JinggoyValmayor produced two goals to bring the Green Booters down from first to fourth place.

 

Not enough arrows

Upon entering the Final Four, the Green Booters needed to defeat Ateneo, who finished on top of the league, in order to enter the Finals.

There was no love lost between the two sides when they faced one another during Valentine’s Day. The affair cannot be decided within 90 minutes of regulation with both teams failing to score. Two 15-minute halves of extra time then ensued to determine the winner of the match. With no one finding the back of the net in the given overtime periods, a penalty shootout was used to decide the winner of the match.

La Salle’s Nathan Alquiros, Gerald Layumas, Don Rabaya, and Ateneo’s Val Calvo, Mikko Mabanag and Carlo Liay alternately converted their penalty shots while Green Booter defender Gregory Yang and Blue Booter Yu Murayama fluffed their attempts.

After a 3-3 deadlock in the penalty shootout, it was the task of Patrick Deyto, the team’s captain and first-choice goalie, to restore La Salle’s lead into the proceedings. However, Ateneo keeper Nicholas O’Donnell saved his shot, leaving Jico Noel a chance to send Ateneo into the finals. The Ateneo defender made no mistake from the spot as his shot eliminated La Salle out of championship contention.

“[I] came to this team as an 18 year old kid, now [I’m] leaving [as] a 23 year old man. It’s been a great journey, sure learned a lot. I’ll never forget DLSU,” expressed a remorseful yet pleased Deyto via Twitter. The departing skipper has played his last game as a Green Booter.

 

Repeating last year

Last year, the Lady Booters slowly started the season with a poor first round performance before coming up big in the second round to land a place in the Finals. This year, the team has just done the same thing all over again.

Every point counted for the Lady Booters who started the second round with a character-building 2-1 win over reigning champion UST. Cha Guancia scored twice, including a last-minute strike that pierced the Tigresses’ hearts. The team followed it up by holding an offensive FEU team into a goalless draw.

The Lady Booters then had a two-week break as they were on bye on the third match day. The relatively long rest proved to have benefitted the cause of the Lady Booters who returned to Ateneo to face the stuttering Lady Eagles.

Cristina Viray surprised everyone with a first minute goal to give La Salle an early 1-0 lead. La Salle’s advantage was then erased by a Mia Catedrilla goal in the second half. With the season on the line, Guancia stepped up and delivered a cold-blooded finish with 12 minutes remaining to make it 2-1 for the Lady Booters.

With FEU preventing UST from gaining any points on its last game, La Salle solely needed a win to push them back into the Finals. Prior to the game, Smit had to adjust his line-up since top scorer Guancia was not available for the match because the striker accumulated two consecutive yellow cards in the team’s last two games. After several attempts, Karla Pacificador’s free kick in the 74th minute found its way into the goal. Moments after, the referee halted the match which certified the Lady Booters’ re-entry to the Finals.

 

Championship quest

With both of Coach Hans Smit’s teams qualifying for the postseason, the veteran coach instructed his team to set their eyes on the bigger prize. Aside from reaching a step further towards the primary goal, Smit also lauds his teams for being able to secure better rankings than UST, which had its both teams knocked out of title contention.

“That’s the first business that we have taken care of, finishing ahead of both UST men’s and women’s [football] teams. Now we go back on track on winning the titles,” Coach Hans said.