With reports from Dab Castañeda
The past three years have been painful for the DLSU Lady Archers as they lost a twice-to-beat advantage to the ADMU Lady Eagles in the playoff step-ladder format back in Season 78, got swept by the NU Lady Bulldogs in the championship round of Season 79, and bowed out of the competition early in Season 80 with a seventh place finish.
Despite finishing the elimination round of Season 79 with 11 wins and three losses, the Taft-based squad was not able to bring the same success in Season 80 as they succumbed to a disappointing 3-11 record. “Unfortunately last year, we had four major injuries to our four starters, so we struggled throughout the season,” head coach Cholo Villanueva shared.
This year proves to be different as Camille Claro, who suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury right before Season 80, is now healthy once again to don the Green-and-White jersey for the last time in the UAAP. Claro will also take over as the new team captain, following Marga Dagdagan’s departure due to graduation.
Youth and veteran leadership
Villanueva will head into Season 81 with five rookies and three sophomores. Bettina Binaohan, Rhea Castillo, Chini Espinas, Jel Jajurie, and Angel Quingco are the players set to debut this season, while Lauryn Del Campo, Marga Jimenez, and Bernice Paraiso will look to improve after a year of collegiate basketball experience.
Due to the various injuries that the team experienced last season, Villanueva was forced to include Del Campo, Jimenez, and Paraiso in the rotation. The trio was able to give their head coach solid minutes on the floor, and Villanueva saw last year’s injuries as a blessing in disguise as it gave them the opportunity to gain valuable experience. He also stressed out that the sophomores have now developed the skills to blend in with the veteran players this season.
With the departure of Dagdagan and Chay Vergara, Villanueva expects Claro, Khate Castillo, Kat Nuñez, and Benette Revillosa to mentor the younger players throughout the season. “They’re going to be the leaders in this team,” the former Green Archer firmly stated.
When asked how she will lead the team this season, Claro responded, “I will help them, and guide them in everything that we do. I will make sure that I would lead them to the right path, and to where we want to be.”
Hungry for redemption, Villanueva claims that the team has retained their offensive and defensive strategies, pressuring the opposing team for 40 minutes while creating turnovers, followed by attacks on the other end. Knowing that getting to the top will not be an easy task, Villanueva tells his girls to look at things in a positive manner, and create a positive environment for all of them. He says that last year’s injuries could have been blessings in disguise since the younger players have acquired more experience and maturity inside and outside the court, which prepared them enough to play with confidence together with the veterans.
As for Claro, getting back to her playing ways since her injury was scary at first, thinking that she wouldn’t be the same as she was a few years back, but she reminded herself to give nothing but her best for the team, considering that it’s her last playing year in the UAAP.
Regardless of the team’s performance last season, Villanueva and his girls have kept a constant reminder not to let the same thing happen again. “[Coach Cholo] taught us that we need each other to win games, and [to] take it one game at a time,” Claro finished. As for the head coach, his focus is to improve themselves first in order to win one game at a time, and eventually reach the Final Four. From there, they will work to battle it out until they get to the very top.
The DLSU Lady Archers will open their Season 81 campaign against the AdU Lady Falcons tomorrow, 11am, at the Blue Eagle Gym.