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Team of the year: Lady Booters complete three-peat quest, seal La Salle football legacy

Clinching top honors in the league is no walk in the park, and cementing a three-peat legacy is no easy coup either. Yet the DLSU Lady Booters were steadfast in achieving the rare feat for the University. Unlike the two previous editions of the tournament wherein DLSU went up against UST, the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Football Finals saw the Lasallians vie for the title against a different opponent this year, the FEU Lady Tamaraws.

The LaSallian accords this year’s Team of the Year award to the Lady Booters after defending their championship and seizing their 11th crown, the most in the history of women’s football.

Tenacious start

With the lead tactician and head coach Hans Smit, who is still recovering from a heart procedure he underwent during the start of the season, the team braced themselves for a lot of changes. Although despite the different styles of play and new formations, the rookie-laden team did not let these affect their ultimate goal—to win the elusive three-peat.

Regardless of the absence of Kyla Inquig and Nicole Andaya on the field, the Lasallians made sure that they remained at the top of the table during the first round of the eliminations. Graduating team captain Kyra Dimaandal and rookie Shai Del Campo spearheaded the team in their offensive charge.

Coming from a stalemate matchup with the UST Golden Tigresses, 2-2, DLSU defeated the UP Lady Maroons with a stunning 3-0 win. After the game, Smit emphasized to his players the importance of being able to learn and improve from previous games, “We performed as established at training because of [the] last game…You should consider a draw as a loss, and we should bounce back from that kind of game because you know you could do better.”

Start strong, finish stronger

In the middle of their campaign, some team members also suited up for the women’s national team in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qualifiers for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament held last April 4 to 10 in Qatar. Along with returnees Sara Castañeda and Irish Navaja, Del Campo, Chelo Hodges, Maye Mendaño, and Christina Montelibano also played vital roles in lifting Philippine football to greater heights.

After donning red, blue, and white in the international campaign, the Lasallians returned to Taft to continue their streak in the second round of eliminations.

The Green-and-White opened the second round with two straight draws against the Lady Maroons, 1-1, and the Golden Tigresses, 0-0. Following the matchup against UST, Dimaandal shared that the team was satisfied but not completely, explaining, “We could’ve done more…the possession was there. And in the last few minutes, halata na we could score.”

DLSU concluded the UAAP Elimination Round undefeated, highlighted by 6-0 victories over the ADMU Lady Eagles and the UP Lady Maroons. At the culmination of the eliminations, Smit shared,  “The team has been consistent all throughout the first and second rounds…Team’s battle cry has always been “Start strong, Finish stronger.” Never losing a game is what ensured our getting to the finals!”

Cementing the legacy       

In the end, the Lady Booters were successful in their title defense as they were crowned champions of the women’s football tournament after securing a 2-0 victory over the Lady Tamaraws. Subsequent to finally sealing the crown, three Lasallians were recognized for individual awards. With 10 goals to her name in her first UAAP stint, Del Campo was awarded Rookie of the Year and Best Striker. Further, Tashka Lacson claimed the Best Goalkeeper honor for the second season in a row, while Castañeda clinched the Best Midfielder award for the third time during her UAAP career, and the Finals Most Valuable Player award. La Salle also earned the Fair Play distinction to cap off the season.

On their historic run, their head coach declared that the athletes have indeed been “very good students” under his tutelage. Smit also shared that the coaches, as teachers and educators, appreciate the reciprocity they receive from their students, the players. “I believe in myself, I believe in my staff. I know what I can do, I know what my girls can do. They just had to prove it…let the wins and the championship speak for themselves,” Smit concluded.

Andrea Punzalan

By Andrea Punzalan

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