After ending its seven-year title drought last season, the DLSU Women’s Football Team was able to bag another championship, as it concluded Season 80 with a 2-1 victory over the UST Golden Tigresses in the Finals.
When asked to describe the entire season, Nina Arrieta responded, “Oh wow! It was a roller-coaster. Ups and downs talaga. At the end, all we had was each other.”
The Green-and-White had an incredible campaign the previous year as they won all of their games en route to a perfect season, but things did not go as smoothly this year. The team lost Dea Ferrer, Meryll Ledesma, Regine Metillo, Toni Nolasco, Inna Palacios, Ludessa Silava, and Erika Turtur due to graduation, while the holdovers faced numerous injuries throughout the season. Distractions off the pitch also occurred as sisters Sara and Anicka Castañeda sat out the entirety Season 80.
“Doesn’t matter which players we have. It’s a team sport, it’s a team game. The team that plays together, that understands each other, that respects each other, they are gonna be the winners. It’s all about attitude and character,” head coach Hans Smit shared after clinching the title last April 5.
Even though the team encountered a lot of issues and seemed vulnerable at times, the Lasallians were still able to sneak into the Finals as they finished the elimination round in second place with 16 points, coming from five wins, one draw, and two loses.
La Salle kicked-off its campaign by vanquishing the UP Lady Maroons, 3-1, with Chelo Hodges finding the back of the net for the 35th minute equalizer. Arthur completed the comeback as she scored two goals in the second half to give the team a victory on the first match day.
The triumph over UP was the team’s 23rd straight win, a run that spanned through the entire Season 79 and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Women’s League, but that magnificent winning streak was ended by UST on Valentine’s Day. Shelah Cadag scored the only goal of the match and dealt the Lasallians their first loss of the season.
Nicole Andaya, one of La Salle’s two graduating players, headed in the winner against the FEU Tamaraws in their next game as the team quickly turned the heartbreak into a 1-0 win. The team managed to generate the same result against archrivals ADMU Lady Eagles with Arrieta converting a penalty at the 37th minute to give DLSU its third win coming into the second round.
The Green-and-White edged the Lady Eagles once again as Kyra Dimaandal broke the 0-0 deadlock with a wonderful flick past the goalkeeper. The team absorbed their second loss of the campaign as the Golden Tigresses overwhelmed the defending champions with a 5-2 triumph. Cadag and Charisa Lemoran each bagged a brace while Mary Joy Indac added another goal to complete the scoring rout. Arthur and Kyla Inquig, the other Lasallian playing in her last year, got two consolation goals for the Taft-based squad.
La Salle bounced back from their second loss with a 1-0 victory in the next game versus the Lady Maroons. The only goal of the match came from Arthur as she recorded her fourth goal of the season. DLSU’s final match in the second round against the Lady Tamaraws was a crucial encounter since it provided the Lasallians their ticket going to the Finals.
A loss for the Green-and-White would have forced them into a knock-out match against FEU, but a win or a draw for the Lasallians would be enough for a third consecutive finals appearance. Luckily for the Taft-based squad, the match ended at 0-0 thus allowing them to setup a Finals match with UST for the second consecutive year.
The Golden Tigresses ended the elimination round at first place after garnering 19 points from their record of six wins, one draw, and one loss. The España-based squad was determined in snatching the crown away from the Lasallians but came up short in the season finale.
Inquig dazzled in the Finals as she scored two scintillating goals to fire La Salle past the Golden Tigresses. The graduating player curled in a sensational free-kick at the top right corner of the goal at the 12’ mark of the match but UST soon found an equalizer as Lemoran set-up Cadag with a perfectly placed through ball in a swift counter-attack that left the DLSU defense stunned at the 22nd minute.
Both teams remained tied at 1-1 until the 80th minute as Inquig picked-up the loose ball after Andaya was dispossessed by a couple of UST players. The striker launched an attempt outside the box and the ball went straight to the top left corner. “Sobrang na-shock din ako sa mga goals ko. Basta inisip ko lang kasi na, I have to score kasi last year ko na so kailangan ko na ibigay lahat ng makakaya ko,” Inquig replied when asked to describe her goals.
Smit obtained his 10th UAAP title in the women’s division, bringing his total to 13 UAAP championships, with the other three coming from the men’s division. When asked why this squad is special compared to the other teams he’s managed, Smit replied, “It’s because these girls, we started the year on the wrong foot. We had to make arrangements… they showed true character in playing this way.”
Following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Tashka Lacson received her first Best Goalkeeper award, while Bea Delos Reyes earned Rookie of the Year honors. The former was the only goalkeeper listed on the team while the latter played a pivotal role in controlling the midfield.
Partnering Delos Reyes in the middle of the pitch was Arthur. The former Golden Boot awardee missed the entire Season 79 due to an ACL injury but was able to bounce back this season and pick-up the Best Midfielder award.
Despite playing in various positions all season long, Inquig was able to garner her second straight Most Valuable Player award. She prefers to play as a striker, but due to the absences of a few players and the injury problems that the team faced, Inquig was forced to play in the central midfield and as a sweeping center back in the backline. “Nabigla ako sa ibinigay ni coach na sobrang hirap pero wala kailangan ko mag-adjust.”
With Andaya and Inquig leaving, Smit said he has the Castañeda sisters filling-in to replace the two. The passionate coach also shared that Arrieta and Cristine Duran will recover in time for next season after each suffered an ACL injury during the first round of eliminations.
“I got four or five recruits coming in, and these are classy players. Next year, we’ll be strong,” Smit added.
Arrieta also echoed the words of her coach as she claimed that the team will be stronger next year, “I think I have a good feeling next year.”