Following an incredible redemption campaign the previous year, the DLSU Women’s Football Team will now look to defend their title heading into Season 80. The Lasallians earned an outright berth to the Season 79 Finals by sweeping the elimination round, leaving both the UST Golden Tigresses and the ADMU Lady Eagles left to scramble for the last spot via a step-ladder format. The former eventually made it through but lost to the Green and White in the deciding match, 3-1.
The heartbreaking loss to the UP Lady Maroons back in the Finals of Season 78 seemed to be the turning point for the women’s team as they have not experienced a defeat since. After clinching the Season 79 title with an unblemished record, the Green and White soon duplicated the feat in the inaugural season of Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Women’s League, a preseason tournament, which extended their winning streak to 22 games.
Even though the team won two championships and went unbeaten in both tournaments, head coach Hans Peter-Smit downplays the unique achievement of the women’s team. “That’s gone. I’m not thinking about that anymore. That was last season, it’s a new year, a new team, we need to do something else. It’s useless to think about the past. We cannot live on that alone.”
Newly appointed team captain Kyra Dimaandal echoed the thoughts of her coach as she agrees that it is better to erase the winning streak from their minds. “It’s in the past and it’s time to rewrite goals.”
Preparing for the season
Despite being a collegiate league, the competitive spirit in the UAAP is unparalleled. In just a short amount of time, underdog teams can suddenly be contenders while champions can fall if they are outworked. “I’m not satisfied yet with the attitude of being a defending champion so we’ll see what happens when the UAAP will start,” Smit states. Given the amount of talent that all competing schools have, things can turn around quickly in just a season’s difference proving that it can be anyone’s ballgame in the UAAP.
This season, all opposing teams have their eyes fixed upon the Green and White as they will be the team to beat in the women’s division. By eliminating all signs of complacency in his players, Smit wants to make sure that his team stays on top by making the right preparations. He continuously emphasizes that the team needs to go all out in every game and let go of their past achievements if they want to repeat. “Last year is last year, that’s a different season, different year, different line-up so they just have to have the right attitude coming into the UAAP.”
When asked about the team’s mentality heading into the new campaign, Dimaandal says, “The same from last year – start strong, finish stronger.” The team captain also states that the team should be tougher this year since they have a title to defend and the other teams will be going after their championship. “It’s harder now to be on top because everybody wants to bring you down,” Smit adds.
Experience and youth
The offseason was a step in the right direction as it gave Smit the opportunity to have scrimmages and to experiment with the lineup for the upcoming season. “As you know, a lot graduated from last season so we had to make changes,” notes Dimaandal. Dea Ferrer, Meryll Ledesma, Regine Metillo, Toni Nolasco, Inna Palacios, Ludessa Silava, and Erika Turtur will no longer be playing for the Green-and-White but an influx of talent will come in to try and fill the boots of the seniors.
Smit mentioned that the team will have three rookies this season while Shannon Arthur, who suffered an ACL injury right before Season 79 started, will return and help the team defend the crown. With both Palacios and Turtur ineligible to play in Season 80 due to graduation, Tashka Lacson is expected to be the number one goalkeeper of the team despite being held out by Smit last season to accommodate the graduating keepers.
Kyla Inquig and Dimaandal will most likely form the core of this year’s team after bagging the Most Valuable Player and Best Striker awards respectively last campaign. Completing the veteran core will be UAAP Season 79 Women’s Football XI awardees, Marielle Tejada and Irish Navaja.
Defending the crown
With the new season closing in, Smit expects his players to know what they are up against this campaign and states that the team is performing really well despite the adjustments during the offseason. “As every year, the girls will continue to fight and play their best.”
“It was never about confidence, but how much you can give and we’re always ready to give our all for the Green-and-White,” Dimaandal answers when asked about the team’s level of confidence this season. She also expects harder challenges and more obstacles this season. “It’s a test of who wants it more.”