SportsUAAP: DLSU Women’s Football ends seven-year title drought, concludes season unbeaten
UAAP: DLSU Women’s Football ends seven-year title drought, concludes season unbeaten

The DLSU Women’s Football Team closed its UAAP Season 79 campaign with a perfect record, all en route to a championship. With a record of eight wins in the elimination round, the Lasallians earned themselves an outright berth in the finals.

The recent championship gave head coach Hans Peter-Smit his 12th title in the UAAP, with nine in the women’s division and three in the men’s. His nine championships in the prior are the most in UAAP history.

Kyla Inquig was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player while Inna Palacios, Regine Metillo, and Sara Castaneda were named Best Goalkeeper, Best Defender, and Best Midfielder, respectively. Furthermore, Kyra Dimaandal finished with 11 goals to her name and was named Best Striker. The five Lasallians joined Mariell Tejada and Irish Navaja in the tournament’s Team of the Year.

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First round

The DLSU kicked off its campaign by defeating the defending champions, the UP Lady Maroons, 2-1, with Dimaandal and Inquig each scoring a goal. The Lasallians’ second match of the campaign featured a total of eight goals, but they came out on top to beat the UST Golden Tigresses, 6-2. Dimaandal, Castaneda, and Nicole Andaya each scored a brace while UST’s Charise Lemoran had her own brace in a losing effort.

The Green-and-White earned its first clean sheet of the season when it prevailed over the ADMU Lady Eagles, 3-0, as Dimaandal and Andaya were present again in the score sheet while Navaja got her first goal of the season in stunning fashion. After the game, Dimaandal shared her thoughts on Navaja’s goal and said, “It was amazing! I didn’t know it was going in. It was [a] wonderful, beautiful [finish] from Irish.”

Navaja continued her fine form in their next game, against the FEU Lady Tamaraws, as she provided a superb cross from a free kick on the right wing for Inquig to head home the only goal of the match.

Second round

La Salle played the Lady Tamaraws again in the second round and had to produce a come from behind win to keep its record perfect. A rare error from DLSU goalkeeper Palacios gave FEU the lead, but Dimaandal bagged another brace to lift the Green-and-White over FEU. “That was my fault, I take full responsibility in that. Napatid ako sa sarili ko pero (I tripped on myself but) it’s always a lesson learned to me. We can’t be perfect, so every mistake you learn from it,” Palacios said after the game.

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The next two games for DLSU came against the two teams from Katipunan, in which they won both matches with a score of 5-0. La Salle pounced archrivals ADMU, with Dimaandal leading the way as she got her third brace of the season, while Nina Arrieta scored her first goal. Inquig and Castaneda chipped in with one goal each to finish off the match. In their match versus UP, Inquig, Castaneda and Dimaandal scored anew, while defenders Metillo and Christine Duran got on the score sheet for the first time this season.

The final match of the elimination round came against the UST Golden Tigresses and La Salle had to overcome an early 1-0 deficit. Dimaandal equalized the score at 1-1 before halftime, as Arrieta and Chelo Hodges sealed the victory in the second half to give the team from Taft its eighth win in as many matches.

The finals

Due to the unbeaten record of the Lasallians, the last spot in the Finals was determined via a step-ladder format, featuring second-placed UST and ADMU. The match had a total of nine goals, but it was the Golden Tigresses who earned a ticket to the finals as it defeated the Lady Eagles, 5-4.

The finals kicked-off last May 7 in the Rizal Memorial Stadium wherein DLSU triumphed over the UST Golden Tigresses to clinch its first championship in seven years. Dimaandal struck first at the 56th minute as she produced a brilliant maneuver to evade UST’s rushing goalkeeper, Nicole Reyes.

Hazel Lustan of UST found an equalizer 17 minutes later, but Castaneda found the back of the net after receiving a cross from Navaja to lift La Salle, 2-1. The Green-and-White was awarded a penalty three minutes  into the stoppage time and Palacios, who is also the national team’s number one goalkeeper, converted from the spot for her first and only goal as a Lasallian.

Smit shared that the loss against UP in the finals last year was on his mind after the equalizer of UST, but he said that he prepared the team for this season as early as last May. He also kept reminding the players about the result of last season and admitted that his players weren’t ready last year. “I think they had nightmares about it, because every week, honestly, every week, or every other two weeks, I remind them about it, ‘Do you want a repeat of last year?’”

Looking ahead

Smit reaped praise on UST head coach Aging Rubio and believes that the Golden Tigresses’ young core will be back stronger. He also mentioned that he will have to rebuild his team due to eight players graduating. “Both keepers will be graduating, two defenders, four midfielders, so we’ll see what happens.”

Two of those graduating players are co-captains Palacios and Meryll Ledesma. The former expressed her amazement on how UAAP football has leveled up throughout the years. “Football is just there on the corner for everyone. It just gets better every year,” Palacios stated.

Ledesma, on the other hand, shared that it was Smit who pushed them to give their all to win the title and had a message for the remaining players of the team. “I just hope that the younger ones will keep the spirit alive, the Animo burning.”

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Timely returns and additions

Along with the new emergence of leaders from the team’s holdovers will be the timely return of players and the addition of rookies. Tashka Lacson, who was out this season to give way to the graduating goalkeepers of the team, Palacios and Erika Turtur, will likely be tasked to oversee the Lasallians’ defense next season. Shannon Arthur, a rookie who received the Golden Boot Award last year, will also look to complete a comeback after she sat out the recently concluded season due to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury.

Furthermore, Castaneda also added that her younger sister Anicka will be suiting up for the coming season. Like her older sister, the younger Castaneda recently suited up for the senior national team in the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers. “It will be fun. I love playing with my sister, we have this connection, so it will be interesting.”