SportsUAAP Finals: DLSU Women’s Football to battle out against Golden Tigresses
UAAP Finals: DLSU Women’s Football to battle out against Golden Tigresses

For the second straight year, the DLSU Women’s Football Team concluded the elimination round without a loss. Last season, the Lasallians finished with 20 points coming from six wins, two draws, and zero defeats. The Green-and-White ended up as the first seed and played against the second seed UP Lady Maroons in the finals. DLSU midfielder Sara Castaneda and Lady Maroon Cristina Delos Reyes canceled out each other’s penalty kicks, but BG Sta. Clara found the game-winning goal in the latter stages of the game to clinch the title for UP.

This season, La Salle swept the elimination round by winning all eight of its games, thus paving the way for a step-ladder format in the playoffs. The format featured the second seeded UST Golden Tigresses against the third seed ADMU Lady Eagles. The match had a total of nine goals, but it was UST who earned a ticket to the finals as it defeated the Lady Eagles, 5-4.

The Golden Tigresses finished in last place out of five teams in the standings last season as they ended the elimination round with one win, one draw, and six loses. This season, they showed massive improvement and accumulated 13 points, nine more points compared to last season’s tally. The last time UST played in the finals was five seasons ago, wherein the Golden Tigresses clinched the championship against La Salle.

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Co-captain Meryll Ledesma

Elimination round encounters

La Salle showed resilience as the overwhelmed Golden Tigresses lost in a 6-2 match in its first round encounter. Sara Castaneda, Kyra Dimaandal, and Nicole Andaya came away with braces of their own to lead DLSU. On the other hand, UST’s Charisa Lemoran provided her team its two goals at the 47th and 76th minute.

The Green-and-White achieved a rare feat of sweeping the entire elimination round after beating the team from Espana in the second round. Despite having to immediately catchup after a goal from Mary Indac at the 21’ mark. An equalizer at the 37th minute courtesy of Dimaandal and two more goals from Nina Arrieta and Chelo Hodges at the 50’ and 80’ marks, respectively, gave DLSU its eighth win in as many games.

Meryll Ledesma downplayed the elimination round accomplishment and said, “We just have to focus on what we have to finish and we have to work on our lapses.”

Crucial players

Dimaandal was the top goal scorer at the end of the elimination round with 10 goals while Kyla Inquig and Castaneda chipped in four goals each. La Salle’s offense does not solely rely on the trio as Irish Navaja will seek to continue her fine form in the finals. The pacy winger has been outstanding on the flanks for head coach Hans Smit this season, but defense will be the key for the Green-and-White to clinch the title.

La Salle’s defense, anchored by co-captains Inna Palacios and Ledesma, will try to contain the energetic Thomasians. The former is the Philippine National Team’s starting goalkeeper while the latter will be paired up with Regine Metillo at the heart of the DLSU defense. The Lasallians have kept four clean sheets so far this season, with two coming against the Lady Eagles and one each against the FEU Lady Tamaraws and the UP Lady Maroons, but none against the team from Espana.

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Co-captain Inna Palacios

The Golden Tigresses will be headed by Lemoran, who finished the elimination round with nine goals, including a hat-trick in UST’s first round match-up against the ADMU Lady Eagles. In the step-ladder game against the Lady Eagles, the impressive sophomore added two more goals to her season tally as she sent the Golden Tigresses to the finals. Hazel Lustan, Jan Cleofe, and Indac will also be crucial for UST as they will try to relieve pressure off  the striker on offense.

DLSU secured a spot in the finals after sweeping the entire elimination round and had two weeks to prepare for today’s championship game. Regardless of the long break which would worry most coaches and players, Smit appeared to be unfazed. “People would say ‘Oh wow, La Salle will be off for two weeks.’ No, I have prepared my team mentally also [that] it’s good for us to recover. Two weeks is a long time to recover.”

Catch the winner-take-all final of the UAAP Season 79 Women’s Football Tournament between DLSU and UST today, May 7, at 6 pm at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.