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UAAP: Undefeated Lady Booters target title defense to claim 11th crown over Lady Tamaraws

The DLSU Lady Booters have earned themselves the chance to cement a three-peat in UAAP football, entering the tournament postseason as the top seed. Zero losses in eight games propelled the Lasallians to their fourth consecutive finals appearance, this time confronting the FEU Lady Tamaraws for the crown.

Both finalists are no stranger to the high stakes atmosphere of competing for the championship; FEU had just completed a three-peat of their own in seasons 75 to 77 before La Salle won back the title in season 79. Additionally, the opposition has a track record similar to the Green-and-White, with each side claiming the crown 10 times over the course of UAAP history. The upcoming clash will determine which of the two can garner the most UAAP titles for the women’s division.

Goalfests and stalemates

The defending champions experienced both dominant triumphs and hard-fought struggles for equalizers to arrive at a 4-4-0 win-draw-loss record by the end of eliminations. Three high-scoring wins and a draw in the first round were then followed by three stalemates and one victory in the second round.

Team captain Kyra Dimaandal admits “many lapses” blemished their second round performance despite training during the break. The limited recovery time between games left the Green-and-White riddled with injuries, as Dimaandal herself had to sit out DLSU’s first match of the second round—a barely-salvaged tie against UP.

Still, a draw was different from a loss, and coach Hans-Peter Smit credits the Lady Booters for living up to the “battle cry which has always been ‘start strong, finish stronger’” as well as for consistently guarding their undefeated streak. “Never losing a game is what ensured our getting to the finals. Of course, we’ve had better days than others, but the team knew what had to be done to secure our ranking.”

Forces to reckon with

DLSU’s +12 goal difference, far above the rest of the league, is a testament to their motivation to press for more goals alongside their disciplined defensive stops.

Between the posts, Tashka Lacson pulled off crucial saves throughout the season and kept three clean sheets—just behind the opposing goalkeeper from FEU, Kim Pariña, who had four.

On the attacking front, rookie Shai Del Campo leads the league with nine goals to her name, contributing half of La Salle’s 19-goal output this season. Scoring in each of the team’s first round matches and in all their wins, the striker netted a double brace when the Taft-based squad first faced FEU.

“I bet it would be a mix of emotions,” Del Campo expresses ahead of her first UAAP finals, adding that she hopes to influence the matchup by “being connected with [her] teammates to finish the game”.

Shooting four openers for the Green-and-White, Dimaandal describes their build up plays as a team effort, “For us, it doesn’t matter who scores…Pinag-tatrabahuan ng buong team, way back from the keeper, natatapos hanggang sa strikers sa kabilang dulo ng field.”

(The entire team puts in the work, way back from the keeper, up until the strikers finishing at the other end of the field.)

Such fluidity in the Lasallian playstyle could be pivotal in breaking through the Lady Tamaraws’ defenses, led by FEU captain and center-back Hannah Pachejo. This gritty system is nothing new for the Lady Booters, but Smit expects them to show up with even “more intensity, vigor, finality, drive, and perseverance since this [is] for all the marbles”.

Final form

“This is the game that matters the most…Kaya sinasabi ko sa kanila na, ‘It all boils down to this. If bibitaw kayo, lahat ng sacrifice na ginawa niyo mawawala, parang na-cancel out siya.’” Dimaandal explains that the previous results were only relevant in sending the team to the finals, as she recognizes that the job is far from finished.

(This is the game that matters the most…Which is why I tell them, “It all boils down to this. If you give up, all the sacrifices you made would be lost, as if they were cancelled out.”)

After all, there is still a full 90 minutes to be played, and performing at peak intensity would mean giving even more in the upcoming do-or-die match. Smit anticipates nothing less from the Green-and-White, “I would like to see the team play a perfect game if there is such a thing!”

Dimaandal also shares that playing close to the University campus could invigorate the Taft-based squad to “not settle for less” in the finals. “I mentioned to the girls, ‘Wag kayong magpatalo knowing that your home is right next to where we’re playing. Just look at the school and think na you have to do your best…kasi La Salle deserves the best.’”

(I mentioned to the girls, “Don’t give up without a fight knowing that your home is right next to where we’re playing.”)

“I’m not thinking about ‘three-peat’ as in specifically; I’m thinking about ‘UAAP 81 Champions’. Very last game ko na for La Salle,” Dimaandal further emphasizes, “I’m going to go all out…Walang bibitaw.

The Lady Booters will suit up for a championship defense as they take on the FEU Lady Tamaraws tomorrow, May 16, at 2 pm at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Erinne Ong

By Erinne Ong

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