Rocky season still ends with gold for DLSU womens' football
Coming from a perfect season and a UAAP Women’s Football title, the De La Salle Lady Archers were understandably the favorites heading into UAAP Season 80.
But as the season progressed, a hungry University of Santo Tomas side slowly grabbed that ‘favorite’ label as they bested DLSU twice in the eliminations, en route to a league-best 6-1-1 record.
The defending champions, while able to make the finals for a third straight year, looked far from the team that went unbeaten a season ago.
“We started the year on the wrong foot, we had to make arrangements one week before opening, I had to drop the sisters, then first three minutes of the season, I have one ACL. Last game of the first round, I got a second ACL.” explained DLSU head coach Hans-Peter Smit.
Before the season began, DLSU lost the services of Sara Castañeda, who was coming off a super sophomore season, as well as her sister Anicka, highly-touted recruit from the De La Salle Zobel Program.
Making matters worse, injuries plagued the Lady Archers as Christine Duran and Nina Arrieta were both sidelined due to ACL injuries. Irish Navaja was also playing hurt.
“At the end of the second round, at the end of the FEU game, I had nine injured from the first eleven, and during the Holy Week I had ten injured.” continued Smit.
Heading into Thursday’s Womens’ Championship match, all of a sudden, the Lady Archers were the underdogs.
Smit’s belief in his girls never wavered however, and more than just winning back-to-back championships, the long-time mentor had other motivating factors.
“I just told the girls stay focused, nobody else deserves to win this game, if not so much for the championship, but just to get back at UST, ‘cause we lost twice to UST this year, we’ve never lost three times straight to the same team, as much as I can remember for the women.”
And when it mattered most, through the injuries - before and during the final match - through everything they experienced during the season, streak-ending losses and 5-2 beatdowns, the Lady Archers’ championship pedigree shone through.
Kyla Inquig, the back-to-back MVP, blasted a free kick into the back of the net for goal number one, and fought through cramps to deliver a go-ahead goal from way outside the box after UST’s own superstar, Shela Cadag, had come up big for the Lady Tigresses once again.
After 90 minutes, the most important 90 minutes of the season, it was a 2-1 win for DLSU, and their 0-2 standing against UST during the eliminations, ultimately accounted for nothing.
“Nung last two games, sobrang down namin dahil sa mga issues, pero sabi ni coach dapat i-prove namin na kahit kulang, kahit hindi kami healthy, alam niya na kaya namin, so na-motivate kami na gawin hanggang sa matapos yung game.” said Inquig, who’ll be bidding goodbye to her UAAP career as a back-to-back MVP and back-to-back champion.
“Kulang kami, andaming issues, andaming injuries, hindi kami healthy lahat, pero naka-adjust naman kami, gusto namin manalo, yung winning attitude andun talaga.” she added.
“The girls, they showed true character, playing this way, playing in pain, they’ve been in pain for so long. They wanted to get this game, chances were there for UST, we also had chances, but UST was a more dangerous team, they were a healthy team, they were very fast, I just had to play the mind game, like I said, and positioning.” Smit said after the win.
From favorites, to underdogs, to again champions, the DLSU Lady Archers showed this season why they’re tied for the title of the winningest women’s football program in the UAAP.
Ten titles, and counting.
For Smit, who’s been there for all of DLSU’s ten women’s championships, it’s always been about the team game.
“It doesn’t matter who players we have, it’s a team sport, it’s a team game. A team that plays together, that understands each other, that respects each other, they are going to be the winners. It’s all about attitude and character.”