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Finals-bound: DLSU Lady Archers aim to return UAAP Women’s Basketball crown to Taft

As Season 85 draws closer and closer to the finish line, the Lady Archers have been shattering records and racking up win after win in pursuit of a long-desired championship.

As Season 85 draws closer and closer to the finish line, the Lady Archers have been shattering records and racking up win after win in pursuit of a long-desired championship that establishes La Salle  as a women’s basketball powerhouse.

The team’s recent success should not be attributed solely to the players’ individual levels of talent. Although every Lady Archer plays a significant role in winning closeout games, teamwork, solidarity, and an equally talented coaching staff all fit like well-oiled cogs behind the scenes in the construction of a successful team such as this one.

Back on the grind

Even before the season began, the Lady Archers gave it their all to bring the crown back to Taft. Despite the rookie-heavy roster seeing no UAAP action and their regular routine being sidelined for nearly two years due to the pandemic, the players were still able to get into game shape thanks to the effective mental and physical training they received online. Veteran guard Charmine Torres points out, “We [have been preparing] for this season since [the] pandemic. Nag-online training kami buong pandemic noon para i-work [on] yung mga weaknesses.”

(We have been preparing for this season since the pandemic. We underwent online training to work on our weaknesses.)

And when in-person practices returned, DLSU head coach Cholo Villanueva prepared the Lady Archers by matching them up against much more tenured squads. This helped the Green and White mature and become wiser despite their flagship tournament’s absence, which is evident in their high-octane run to the UAAP Season 85 Finals.

Former Green Archer Villanueva also had the opportunity to receive his own share of training, sharing how his stint as assistant coach of the Hong Kong-based Bay Area Dragons bettered his understanding toward the  “pace of the game.”

Maintaining the right mindset

In every team sport, an undeniably crucial factor in racking up victories is good team chemistry. As a seasoned player, Torres shares how they managed to consistently get wins in their most recent UAAP campaign after finishing outside of the Final Four in their previous run last UAAP Season 82. Torres points out how trusting each other pushes the unit toward their ultimate goal, “Hindi lang kasi isang tao yung gumagawa every game, lahat talaga ‘yung team effort nandoon every game.” 

(It’s not just one person who works every game, it’s really a team-wide effort in every game.)

On a similar note, high-scoring guard Lee Sario is ecstatic about the team’s progress, owing their Finals appearance to “having everyone [on] the same page.” She further shares that consistently having the right mentality is crucial in each and every game they play, ”We are just going to do the right things for the next 40 minutes inside the court.” Villanueva credited the team’s recent success to their selfless brand of basketball, commenting, “There are no egos, and everybody is a star player in their role, that’s why we are so successful this year.”

Eyes on the prize

Looking back at the La Salle’s second-seeded finish in the elimination round, many may consider their historical win over NU as the highlight of it all. However, breaking NU’s historic 108-win streak was just a bonus for the team—a confidence booster to prove that they are moving in the right direction. Torres completely understood what this meant for the team—affirming that only they could tame the Bulldogs. She shares that “La Salle ang last na nakatalo sa kanila then now [tayo] ulit yung naka-end ng streak nila.” But as they continue toward their ultimate goal of returning Women’s Basketball glory back to Taft, Sario emphasizes that the Lady Archers are far from satisfied, ”Even if kami lang yung only team na nakatalo sa NU, that still proves nothing if we do not get the championship [title]."

(La Salle was the last to beat them, so now it is La Salle who broke their [NU’s] streak)

Right at the buzzer

Claiming the crown is, without a doubt, the most ‘athlete’ thing there is, but playing with high respect and reverence to the legends before you will always be the highest form of any sport. For Bettina Binaohan, she shares the same story—reaching the Finals for the first time in six years was all about paying their respects to the team’s seniors. “Ginawa namin to para sa mga seniors namin na may goal pero hindi na-achieve,” 

(We [reached the finals] for our seniors who had that goal [win the championship] but were not able to do so.)

As the Green and White enter the final showdown, Villanueva weighs in as the team has the goal of breaking another streak of the Lady Bulldogs, ”[NU has] been [the] winning [team for] the last seven years, now we have a chance to break that record.” Beyond breaking records, they are not taking their eyes off the ultimate prize. Fueled by strength and ambition, the Lady Archers are hungrier than ever to shoot for their place in Women’s Basketball glory.

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