The DLSU Lady Booters’ long-standing reign on top of UAAP Women’s Football came to an end as they fell in extra time, 2-1, against the FEU Lady Tamaraws in the Season 85 Finals earlier tonight, May 21, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Co-captain Shai Del Campo scored the only goal for the Lady Booters, which was the vital equalizer in the dying minutes of injury time to push the match into extra time.
Season 85 Rookie of the Year and Best Midfielder Regine Rebosura opened the scoring in the 46th minute for the Lady Tamaraws and also came up with the decisive winning goal in the 119th minute to give FEU the title.
With a historic four-peat on the line, the Lady Booters were immediately ambushed by the suffocating Tamaraw press that took the headlines throughout the entire first half. FEU took control of the lion’s share of possession, leaving La Salle scrambling to defend against the relentless attack. The team from Recto continuously cut through the defending champions’ defense in the early part of the opening half.
Against the run of play, the Green and White found a gap in FEU’s defense in the eighth minute as Del Campo got between the center backs and managed to flick the ball goalward. However, FEU goalie Jessa Lehayan was able to get low and make the save.
The Lady Tamaraws threatened to open the scoring in the 11th minute when Marienell Cristobal got free on the right wing and cut the ball back to a trailing Tolentino in front of an open goal. But the low cross was hit weakly, allowing DLSU goalkeeper Alexandrea Gumilao to catch the pass. FEU created another clear-cut opportunity in the 14th minute as Cristobal got a one-on-one chance against Gumilao, which was just thwarted by a last-ditch tackle by La Salle center half Tenelyn Odom.
The Tamaraws’ attacking barrage continued in the 20th minute when midfielder Sarahgen Tulabing had a deflected cross come her way in the middle of the box with Gumilao mispositioned in front of the Lady Booters’ goal. However, the subsequent volley skied past the crossbar.
The match continued in the same manner until the 34th minute when La Salle connected on a long ball, which Layacan controlled. The DLSU forward took advantage of a tripping FEU defender and managed to get a shot in, but the defenders deflected the ball wide. Neither side was able to break the deadlock as the first half came to a close.
Frustrated from a scoreless first half, FEU’s Lyka Cuenco directed traffic for her squad as she placed the ball in dangerous territory to force DLSU to surrender a corner kick in the opening minutes of the half. The corner kick connected with FEU midfielder Rebosura in the scramble within the penalty area to give the Morayta-based squad the opener at the 47th-minute mark, 1-0.
Quickly working to equalize, the Lady Booters hustled to keep the ball within attacking range. But the persistent Tamaraws’ counterattack looked to be dangerous as they challenged the La Salle backline. Nonetheless, the trio of Bea Delos Reyes, Stephanie Goñe, and Rocelle Medano stood their ground as they thwarted more attempts from the ladies in yellow.
Dominating possession of the ball, the DLSU attacking corps led by Lyka Teves and Layacan relied on their improved passing efficiency to keep the Tamaraw backline in check.
Midway into the half, two separate incidents from FEU’s Leofrance Gayapa and Jonela Albiño with DLSU’s Chenny Dañoso allowed tempers to flare, leading to yellow cards being called on both sides. A DLSU strike in the 84th minute found the back of the net, but the goal was called off due to Mj Villacin being flagged offside. The Green and White were scoreless with only minutes to go.
Playing in worsening conditions, the team from Taft continued to fight to force extra time, as they afforded themselves several more freekicks, none of which unfortunately hit the mark. Never giving up, the Green and White found a miraculous cross to connect into a header by Del Campo in the 10th minute of injury time to miraculously push the game past regulation, 1-all.
Looking to strike the decisive blow after their improbable equalizer, the DLSU Women’s Football Team surged forward on the attack in the first half of extra time. However, the Lady Tamaraws remained rock-solid at the back throughout, never allowing a clear-cut opportunity on goal. Both squads had chances to go forward but lacked the threatening edge to take the lead as the first period of extra time ended goalless.
The two squads engaged in a dogfight in the final 15 minutes of the tournament as both teams were desperate to win the season’s title. The Green and White’s defense, led by captain Delos Reyes, fought it out as they pushed the aggressive FEU offense back. As the minutes ticked off the clock, both teams exchanged possession until a last-minute strike off the rebound from Rebosura found the back of the net in the 119th minute—skirting past an initial save by DLSU keeper Gumilao—to hand FEU the championship, 2-1.
After losing the last dance in heartbreaking fashion, DLSU Coach Hans-Peter Smit spoke about his side’s performance in a hard-fought campaign, “The girls showed heart…We [will] come out stronger next year because the girls will know what they’re up against next year.”
With his sight set on a return for Finals vengeance next season, the longtime DLSU football mentor shared that his team’s mantra is to “Play until the last day.” He furthered that it is “back to the drawing board” for his side, “there’s still a lot of things to work on.”
“I thank the La Salle community, especially the ones who have been consistent in supporting the girls and [also] the men’s team.” In the seasons to come, Smit also hopes for more support and exposure not just for La Salle’s football teams, but for UAAP Football in general to see the sport grow within the country.
The DLSU Lady Booters failed to defend their three-season long reign but finished the tournament by capping off the long-awaited return of UAAP Women’s Football as runners-up in Season 85.