UAAP Finals: Rookie heroics power Lady Booters to third straight crown, 2-0, claim most titles in women’s football history

Earlier today at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, the DLSU Lady Booters trumped the FEU Lady Tamaraws, 2-0, to secure a three-peat legacy and the 11th crown for the Taft side. Rookies Maye Mendaño and Shai Del Campo scored a goal apiece in the second half to successfully defend their title.

With this championship, the Lasallian program has now attained the most titles in UAAP women’s football, sliding past the team they had just defeated, FEU, who has garnered 10 crowns of their own. On their historic record, coach Hans-Peter Smit affirmed, “I know what my girls can do. They just had to prove it…let the wins and the championship speak for themselves.”

Danger near the box

Though La Salle had more chances to score, attempting seven shots in the half—of which four were on target—the opponents also had dangerous sniffs near the net coming off long passes and quick transitions.

The Lady Tamaraws’ first attempt came early, as Jovelle Sudaria took a free kick just outside the box in the first minute. The curl was slightly off, with the ball landing atop the net.

Beginning to dominate on possession, the Lady Booters threatened to inch closer to the goal. In the 14th minute, Del Campo received the ball on the right flank with open space in the box, looking poised to finish. However, her low ball failed to shoot past goalkeeper Kim Pariña.

Off long passes, Kyra Dimaandal also had a few looks at scoring the opener. Her run was intercepted by Pariña coming off her line at the 26’ mark. Dimaandal then broke free in the 38th minute, but her attempt was caught by the keeper.

On the failed chances, coach Smit called their first half performance the “lousiest they ever played,” understanding that his squad was bearing the brunt of the “pressure being at the top.” The solution, he said, was to “get back the confidence…and trust themselves.”

Finding their stride

Aggression and desperation were evident from both sides as FEU had to give up successive fouls to intercept DLSU sprinting up the flanks. A hard tackle on Irish Navaja in the 53rd minute gave Lady Tamaraw Vanessa Velasco a yellow card and granted the Taft-based squad another free kick outside the box.

It was off this play that the team found their opener and began to play with more rhythm. Sara Castañeda’s free kick found Mendaño waiting in front of the net, and the rookie headed the ball home at the 54’ mark.

Mendaño shared that the coaches had advised them to be more patient while pushing for the opener, “Sinabi nila na, ‘Maghintay lang, dadating din yung goal.’ At yun nga nangyari.”

(They told us, “Just wait, the goal will come eventually.” And that is exactly what happened.)

Four minutes later, Lady Tamaraw Joyce Onrubia nearly found the equalizer from a corner play as a scuffle in front of goal found the ball sailing into the net. However, she was called for an offside position, allowing La Salle to retain the one-goal advantage.

It was Del Campo who secured the match with La Salle’s second goal late into the second half. The rookie striker broke free on the right flank at the 79’ mark, finding space to dribble up the pitch as the FEU defenders had yet to drop into their own box. Opposing keeper Pariña came off her line too early, and Del Campo made no mistake to chip the ball into the back of the net.

Even as the Lady Tamaraws earned free kicks in the last few minutes of the match, the Taft-based squad made the defensive clearances to retain their lead. DLSU goalkeeper Tashka Lacson played a crucial role to tap out the attempt in the 82nd minute, and to calmly collect a threatening ball from the edge of the box by the end of regulation.

Standout players

When the final whistle blew, it was the Green-and-White who emerged victorious yet again. The awards, however, did not stop with the championship trophy as three Lady Booters were presented with five individual accolades. The whole was also recognized with the Fair Play award.

After keeping a clean sheet in the finals, a record that she said “means a lot to [her]”, Lacson garnered the Best Goalkeeper award for the second season in a row. Describing that she felt “ecstatic”, she also shared, “From the start of this competition, I set to defend this [award], and I’m really happy I won it.”

“It’s the same thing that we do every season. We play how La Salle plays,” Lacson said on keeping up the high caliber of performance. “We continue to work and hustle in training, and when the game comes, [we] just play our heart out.”

Castañeda bagged both the Best Midfielder, which she also won in season 79, and the Finals Most Valuable Player honors. On these, Castañeda remarked, “I just play. It’s just an extra to get these awards.”

Del Campo amassed two awards of her own—the Rookie of the Year and Best Striker awards—for her 10-goal output this season, including the one she scored in the championship match.

Looking back on her rookie outing, Del Campo commented that there were instances where her performance had not been the best. However, the striker also has a promising outlook for the rest of her UAAP career, “I played my heart out every game…It’s just the beginning, and I think I can improve more.”

With the championship, the three-peat, the 11th crown, and the individual awards—the Green-and-White has indeed been a decorated squad. On their ability to work as a team and win, Smit acknowledged the Lady Booters as being “very good students.” He then concluded, “Us coaches, we’re teachers—we’re educators. It’s how they reciprocate, how they accept what we are teaching them. If they believe in what we’re teaching, then I don’t see why they would lose.”

Erinne Ong

By Erinne Ong

Leave a Reply