For the second consecutive year, the DLSU Women’s Football Team will collide with the UST Golden Tigresses in the UAAP Finals. It will be the third finals appearance in as many years for the Green-and-White, losing a penalty shoot-out to the UP Lady Maroons in Season 78 before sweeping all of their games last season en route to the championship.
Since Season 78, La Salle has only lost once in the UAAP – the winner-take-all match against UP in the finals – but this campaign is slightly different as the team has looked vulnerable at times. Hampered by injuries all season long, head coach Hans Smit has been forced to tinker with his starting line-up and play several players out of position. The Green-and-White barely made it to the finals as it finished the elimination round with 16 points coming from five wins, one draw, and two loses.
The Golden Tigresses, meanwhile, topped the elimination round as they accumulated 19 points from their record of six wins, one draw, and one loss. The only loss UST sustained came from the FEU Lady Tamaraws on the first day of the tournament as they conceded three goals after Charisa Lemoran scored 16 minutes into the match.
Season 79 finals
Last season’s finals match-up between the two teams featured four goals, three coming from La Salle and one from UST. The match went goalless in the first half but Kyra Dimaandal scored in the 56th minute to give the advantage to the Green-and-White. Hazel Lustan kept the Golden Tigresses afloat with an equalizer 17 minutes later but it was not enough to stop the Lasallians from winning the title.
Sara Castañeda scored a crucial a goal at the 88th minute while goalkeeper Inna Palacios sealed the victory after converting a penalty three minutes into the added time. It was the perfect send-off for Palacios, Dea Ferrer, Meryll Ledesma, Regine Metillo, Toni Nolasco, Ludessa Silava, and Erika Turtur as they ended their UAAP careers with a championship.
Elimination round encounters
In their first round meeting on Valentine’s Day, the Golden Tigresses emerged victorious with a 1-0 triumph over the defending champions. Shelah Cadag netted the winner at the 73rd minute to give La Salle their first loss of the season.
The loss ended the Lasallians’ 23-game winning streak which began right after their loss against UP in the Season 78 finale. The run started in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Women’s League, a preseason tournament that they swept, and continued throughout their title-winning campaign last year. Their 23rd win came at the expense of the Lady Maroons, in their first game this season.
UST continued its dominance over La Salle in the current campaign as they netted an emphatic 5-2 win over the Green-and-White in their second round encounter. Lemoran and Cadag each scored a brace while Mary Joy Indac added a goal to complete the scoring rout for the Golden Tigresses. After going up 4-0, UST changed goalkeepers but it backfired as Shannon Arthur and Kyla Inquig scored two goals in quick succession. It gave La Salle a glimmer of hope but the deficit was too huge and time was not on their side.
Keys to winning
Dimaandal, the reigning UAAP Best Striker, has only scored one goal so far and it’s a massive drop-off from her goal tally last season. She found the net 11 times in their title-winning campaign and Dimaandal needs to rediscover her shooting boots in order for La Salle to defend the crown.
With Dimaandal experiencing a goal drought this season, Arthur has become DLSU’s main talisman. The former Colegio De San Agustin-Makati standout missed out on the title-winning campaign last year as she suffered from an ACL injury before the season even started but is now making up for lost time. Arthur has picked up the scoring load as she has found the back of the net four times this season, the most in the team. Supporting Arthur are Nicole Andaya, Chelo Hodges, and Nina Arrieta, who each have scored one goal each but the latter won’t be able to suit up in the finals due to a season-ending knee injury.
The chances of Cristine Duran playing in the finals remain close to none as the starting right-back has not played a single match this season. Mariell Tejada, a holdover from the impenetrable defense last season, has remained fit the entire campaign and she is set to start at left-back while the rest of the backline will be difficult to predict as Smit has featured several players to fill-in the center-back and right-back positions. The makeshift defense of Smit will be vital in stopping the offensive juggernaut of the Golden Tigresses.
With the absence of Castañeda this season, Bea Delos Reyes has been tasked to control the central midfield for the Green-and-White and the rookie has done her job superbly. Delos Reyes will be crucial in unlocking the UST defense with her brilliant passing in the middle of the pitch.
In order for UST to snatch the title away from La Salle this season, Cadag, Indac and Lemoran must continue their sublime form in the finals as they have scored a grand total of 18 goals this season. Lustan will provide them additional firepower as she scored a brace in their last match in the elimination round. A fast-paced match will suit the Golden Tigresses, with their link-up play from the midfield to the attack definitely rattling the La Salle makeshift defense.
Catch the winner-take-all final rematch between the DLSU Women’s Football Team and the UST Golden Tigresses on April 5, 4pm, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The game will also be broadcasted live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action.